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L. Marcus

Aliens: A Collector's Thread

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This thread is for everyone who feels like it to post extraterrestrials and post-humans of their own device. Space Opera or Grit-In-The Spacesuit, Little Green Men or Starfish Aliens, PC or NPC species, write-ups, package deals, or just a description -- it's all good.

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Can we also link stuff from other RPG systems, that are maybe not as playable due to flaws in thier systems?

 

What about subspecies we developed based on another setting (there were a few ideas I had that continued game stories).

 

What about "unusual intelligences"? We have some clear pictures of AI, but there have been some interesting variations over the time. Not all of them are "kill all Humans". They might even have to opposed the casual "kill all humans" AI rebellion or "undo all creation" kind of stuff.

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Propably my oldest idea are "The Aldar" and thier "Aldar Way".

 

I noticed one particular pattern in science fiction with precursor civilisations: They all become peacefull in the end. They loose thier warrior nature completely. And that in the end destorys them when weaker, but younger races attack them. They are to passive about defending thier space.

Ancients from Stargate, Iconians from GalCiv, the Solon from Hegemonia - they are all eventually get overrun by weaker but more numerous and warrior-like enemies. The idea is propably that without that, they blow themself up long before they reach that point. And if they do, they will eventually fall.

 

The Aldar were a precursor race in the game "O.R.B." The two civilisations of that game considered them godlike beings, with the interpretation of the "Toromin" - basically thier bible - dominating a lot of decisionmaking. What often came up was "The Way", but it was never quite explained what the Aldar beleived in. All I got get from the intro was a sort of "acceptance of conflict". Growing beyond childish attempts to stop conflict (wich only causes more of them).

And from the Outro I got that if everyone accepted it, true peace could be archeived:

 

So my mind went to work from that with a Philosophy that would allow a warrior culture, without risking nuking themself into oblivion long before they reached "precursor" state of technology.

 

At first I incorporated the Sith and Jedi Codes from Star Wars. In particular I noticed how both were designed to avoid conflict. The Jedi more directly (Peace is the first line, no death the last) while the Sith more indirectly (the idea was to get the lower ranks to fight one another so the upper ones could live in relative peace - or be replaced by a better one). In both cases it failed every time. No side could ever win. If one won, the other side would corrupt it from witin.

In the Setting of Star Wars, War between the Light and Dark Side is inevitable. As inevitable as the Wars in WH40k indeed.

So thus I ended up with a sort of Grey jedi Philosophy that might be able to break the circle of Lightside/Darkside fighting:

"Peace and passion are a lie, the only truth is conflict.

Life inevitably leads to conflict.

Those that fear or try to prevent conflict, only produce more conflicts.

That is the way of the Universe.

That is the Aldar Way."

If you leave out the first line, it works well in other settings too.

 

The Power of the Way:

Accepting conflict would mean no longer looking for it, but also not avoiding it (to make it worse). Following that approach could not be forced. Everyone had to find that way on thier own. And if ever everyone followed it, true peace could be archieved. And interestingly it was actually the universe that seemed to declare that rule itself/confirm the path as valid:

The Aldar somehow managed to tap into that, thus securing thier military technology to be only useable by someone following the Way (and technopaths wich caused no end of conflicts).

Also there was a sort of feedback with Races that followed it: Within 1-5 generations of people having followed the way, the species would unlock a new abilty (wich were lost the next generation if they no longer followed).

 

As with the Romans, the original Aldar became incredible conquerors. However as they spread thier way, they noticed that other species were as viable as them. So those conquered people who learned the Way joined them on thier Conquests. Over time Aldar stopped describing a species and started desribing a Philosophy.

 

It was dangerously incompatible with other Philosophies and Mindsets: Those that followed the way usually lost connection any non-Aldar Way Government, even to thier species (or at least the parts not following the way). And of course other species felt the danger of that encroaching philosophy.

One famous story was how a Aldar Fighter Pilot was captured and forced to train a alien spy on how to operate Aldar Technology - to teach that person the way. Out of 100 candidates, only 1 got it. He was send off in the Pilots ship.

One week later a Aldar Fleet arrived and freed thier compatriot. The fleet was led there by the very spy. In accepting the way he had switched sides and since he could operate thier technology, they knew they could trust him when he explained what had happened. That is the power and conviction of people who truly follow the way.

 

In some way it was a 2 caste soceity - those that followed the way could become higher roles and serve the primary military. And only small portion of the population actually managed to follow the way. Unrest and even Rebellion was not uncommon. The Aldar accepted that conflcit as normal part of the Way.

 

The End of the Way or a new beginning?

In the end, they were still destroyed. They accepted that would happen. Following the way because one feared destruction through conflict, would mean not following the way after all.

They also knew it would happen. Some of the species had developed the ability to see the future after following the way.

The exact means of thier destruction are unclear and it might have been more then one of them:
Maybe they found and saved the galaxy from some ancient horror, but afterwards thier military was to week to fight all the uprisings and enemies?

Maybe they developed a failsave to "wipe the slate clean if we ever fall of the way", and hte failsave deduced it's own creation was falling of the way?

In any case, most of them died. Except for a few. They choose something that no Aldar before had, while still maintaining the Way: Immortality.

 

The survivors and immortality:

Immortality is most often the attempt to avoid conflcit. To outlive everyone that might contest you. In thier case it was the opposite: While the Military Gathered for a final stand and what those few consiedered "a quick escape from conflict through death", they choose immortality and the eternal conflict it would bring them in hopes of one day reigniting the way. After all, every species is receptive if just shown the Way.

For above reasons they do not like being compared to any non-Aldar wich choose immortality - these guys got it all wrong.

In particular they consider V'han from Champions Universe and hier "benevolent Interdimensional Dictatorship" to be childish. She is trying to avoid conflict and thus will only cause more conflict in the end.

 

The Hispanta's:

They had very few military personel. While they of course developed it, they did not use AI/Robots or unesesary power armor to "shield thier warriors from conflict".

So as a result thier military production outclassed thier use and attrition. Yet they could not stop, because that might make them unable to build new ships in time of need or might mean loosing that ability altogether over time.
As a result they put whole fleets into miniature dimension with slowed timeflow, called simply a "Hispanta". They did that a lot. However the access points to those storage dimensions wander around. Unless you got a Aldar ship or the right timing, getting in is impossible. Even if in there, without following the Way you could not use any of those ships. If any other species ever follows the way, they will find and be able to use them.

 

Of course the survivors can use them. They can even control a whole fleet thanks to avalible AI capability (that was just not used before). But only if they do so while following the way and find a opportunity to get into one storage dimension. And of course they used them before in the eons, so not all fleets are quite as complete as they used to be.

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Propably my oldest idea are "The Aldar" and thier "Aldar Way".

 

I noticed one particular pattern in science fiction with precursor civilisations: They all become peacefull in the end. They loose thier warrior nature completely. And that in the end destorys them when weaker, but younger races attack them. They are to passive about defending thier space.

Ancients from Stargate, Iconians from GalCiv, the Solon from Hegemonia - they are all eventually get overrun by weaker but more numerous and warrior-like enemies. The idea is propably that without that, they blow themself up long before they reach that point. And if they do, they will eventually fall.

 

 

I don't see this pattern at all: there are too many counter-examples.

 

Larry Niven's Pak Protectors: more than a little war-like.

 

Traveller's Ancients: destroyed themselves in a civil war. Not peaceful.

 

Babylon 5's elder races, the Shadows and the Vorlons: most definitely Not peaceful.

 

Alastair Reynold's Inhibitors from the Revelation Space series: Extremely far from peaceful.

 

Stephen Baxter's Xeelee from Vacuum Diagrams and other novels in the Xeelee Sequence: You're joking right?

 

H.P. Lovecraft's... oh never mind. You get the point.

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I don't see this pattern at all: there are too many counter-examples.

 

Larry Niven's Pak Protectors: more than a little war-like.

 

Traveller's Ancients: destroyed themselves in a civil war. Not peaceful.

 

Babylon 5's elder races, the Shadows and the Vorlons: most definitely Not peaceful.

 

Alastair Reynold's Inhibitors from the Revelation Space series: Extremely far from peaceful.

 

Stephen Baxter's Xeelee from Vacuum Diagrams and other novels in the Xeelee Sequence: You're joking right?

 

H.P. Lovecraft's... oh never mind. You get the point.

 

Objection, your Honour! The "Ancients" in Known Space are clearly the Slavers, who rule a peaceful utopia of total galactic mind control. Well, the tnuctipun, I guess. . . . 

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I don't see this pattern at all: there are too many counter-examples.

 

Larry Niven's Pak Protectors: more than a little war-like.

 

Traveller's Ancients: destroyed themselves in a civil war. Not peaceful.

 

Babylon 5's elder races, the Shadows and the Vorlons: most definitely Not peaceful.

I my book a true precusor can no longer be warlike. A certain detachment to galactic affairs is nessesary. Or even being wiped out. Otherwise they are simly the current, dominant power.

And those that destroyed themself showcase clearly why you need to get peacefull or will not last. Wich means you will not last because you got peacefull. Catch 22.

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Except several of the examples he provided are either of of races that nobody even knows about or thinks are gone/the stuff of legend (frex, the Shadows in B5), who, upon returning to the galactic scene, kick ass...

 

Or are currently known/recognized but also mysterious/inscrutable/detached (the Vorlons, other Ancients from the series) who are viewed as terrifyingly powerful and not to be trifled with. The only reason other species even live is because the precursors simply have no interest in what the young races HAVE...and on those rare occasions where that isn't the case, it doesn't go well for the less advanced civ.

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Indeed, the definition seems circular: "All Precursors become peaceful because if they do not, they are not true Precursors."

 

But whatever. I grant you SF writers have done this enough times for it to be considered one of the standard tropes. Just not the inevitable, universal one. And the Aldar still make an interesting commentary on the trope and the trope's underlying assumptions: that "Wisdom/Advancement = Peaceful" and "Wisdom/Advancement = Weakness."

 

Both the Precursors who destroy themselves and the Precursors who are destroyed through pacifism give an element of tragedy to a setting. A third common option seems to be the Precursors who transcend or in some way withdraw from the setting, more or less voluntarily. Such Precursors give a sense of mystery rather than tragedy. Or like the Aldar, no one really knows what happened except they are gone.

 

Dean Shomshak

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The zyradu are part of the background of my Planetary Romance setting, but they are not entirely my creation. Some friends of mine have run a Traveller campaign for decades. However, they dislikes some elements of the setting and rewrote them. Notably, they rewrote the aliens to make them more alien. Really, nothing but the names were left. So the vargr stopped being uplifted wolves and became a powerful species of biology-focused and utterly pragmatic aliens (and a lot weirder looking). When I joined the campaign, I offered some additional cultural detail. When I set out to create my own campaign, I did another rewrite (and changed the name and appearance to avoid confusion), resulting in the zyradu.

 

I'm using them again, under the name Hyadans, for my new Champions campaign.  -- Dean Shomshak

 

 

ZYRADU

 

Biology: The zyradu show many anatomical resemblances to Earthly reptiles. They have an internal skeleton, scaled skin and slitted eyes. They also lay eggs. Zyradu have seven limbs, though: two arms, four legs and a tail that ends in a bone spike. They also have four eyes. One pair of eyes sees colors in bright light, while one sees in dim light. Zyradu skin is colored various shades of blue or purple, from medium hues to nearly black.

 

The average zyradu weighs 200 kg, and 300 kg is not uncommon. Zyradu are never unarmed, since the long, muscular tail can curve over a zyradu’s body to strike a foe in front of the creature. Zyradu warriors sometimes affix a gun or bayonet to their tails, along with whatever weapons they carry in their hands.

 

Zyradu share one trait with pack animals, which hints at their evolutionary past: Relatively few female zyradu bear offspring, but those who do lay five to ten eggs at a time. Most zyradu cultures consider motherhood something best left to professionals. Humans have great difficulty telling male and female zyradu apart. Zyradu practice complete gender equality with no sexual politics, to the extent that they lack gender pronouns. Culturally sensitive aliens refer to zyradu as “it,” like the zyradu themselves. Zyradu have no nudity taboo, but may wear clothing for warmth, protection, or because pockets are useful.

 

Culture: Encountering the zyradu gave humanity its first hint about just how inhuman aliens might be. Zyradu lack emotion. They show physical drives to survive, mate and protect their progeny, but no love, no hate, no loyalty, anger, fear or joy. In the most general terms, zyradu seek their own best advantage, balancing what they hope to gain against the risk they must undertake, like the ideal rational actors of classical economics.

 

Zyradu recognize that no one can possess perfect information about the profit, loss and risk of every situation, especially about the long-term consequences of actions. Like humans, therefore, they form ideologies to guide their choices. Each zyradu ideology constitutes a guess about the strategy most likely to assure survival for oneself, one’s social group and the zyradu species as a whole. Ideologies do not possess any moral or transcendent aspect: zyradu do not choose an ideology because they believe it is “good.” They believe that a particular strategy optimizes their chances of surviving to propagate their genes and beliefs.

 

These different ideologies or survival strategies form the basis of social or political groupings that human xenologists dub “clans.” The zyradu term combines the connotations of extended family, political party, and even religion, while not precisely meaning any of these things. Zyradu society includes more than a dozen major clans and numerous minor clans and sub-clans. Many of these clan ideologies draw heavily on concepts from biology and ecology.

 

Zyradu clans are partly hereditary. Zyradu seek to indoctrinate their offspring with their own beliefs because people who share one’s beliefs increases one’s chance of implementing that ideology. It’s not unusual, however, for zyradu to switch to a different clan than their parents. In the remote past, groups of zyradu experimented with genetically “hardwiring” clan loyalty into their offspring, but they found that this made their societies too rigid and insular to optimize their survival. Zyradu show about the same degree of loyalty to parents as humans do: While zyradu feel no love for their parents, they do not feel any need to rebel, either.

 

Most zyradu also belong to extended families. These “phratries” combine several generations. Members usually follow the same ideology, but this is not always the case: Some phratries consider it strategically desirable to place members in multiple clans. The relationships between clans and phratries become at least as complicated and subtle as any human politics, and as volatile. Individual zyradu become leaders of their phratries or clans through seniority, skill at administration and persuasion, and interest in taking the job.

 

Nor are clans monolithic. A zyradu who disagrees with the dominant clan in its region may find it expedient to go along with the majority while attempting to nudge other zyradu to its point of view. If a zyradu sees some clear advantage to acting against its ideology, it may choose personal gain over abstract principle. Zyradu of the same clan do not necessarily agree in every detail, either, or feel mindless obedience to the clan’s interests. Zyradu pursue their own interests first. They do not even have words for concepts such as patriotism or loyalty: They must import such words from other species, or translate them as “insanity.” Zyradu can display altruism, though — some ideologies define the individual as a temporary and expendable vehicle for genes and memes.

 

Technology: The zyradu have developed biotechnology to a very great degree. Their “machines” may consist in whole or in part of organisms genetically engineered to perform special functions. For instance, zyradu do not build computers: They grow creatures whose brains are hardwired to perform intricate calculations or operate complex machinery by instinct. The zyradu grow living buildings, factories, vehicles… and weapons. Zyradu warfare relies on synthetic plagues and artificial organisms of varying lethality. Biotechnology cannot replace all “hardtech” — living fusion reactors or starship engines just aren’t possible — but the zyradu possess great expertise at integrating living and nonliving devices.

 

For millennia, the zyradu have genetically engineered themselves, too. However the species began, the average zyradu is now stronger, tougher, and smarter than the average human. Some zyradu diverge wildly from the species norm because of altered genetics. Most zyradu consider genetic alteration and bioengineering completely normal. They do not understand how humans could fight devastating wars over such an issue.

 

Governance: Zyradu space extends more than 200 light-years. No single polity extends further than a single world, however, and few zyradu societies grow even that large. Zyradu space consists of ever-changing alliances and counter-alliances between clans. A clan may wield enough power in a particular region that humans would say it “rules” that world, continent, city-state or neighborhood, but the zyradu would not. Zyradu space is not a government, or even a collection of governments: It is an ecology in which clans and phratries compete and cooperate like different species in a reef or forest. Even a single clan operating on the fringe of human space, however, may command the resources and power of a human planetary government.

 

Interstellar Relations: Different clans hold different attitudes to humanity and other species. Some zyradu want peaceful coexistence with other species; others regard competition as better for zyradu and aliens alike. A small, radical clan advocates the extinction of all other sapients to make more room for zyradu expansion, but the overwhelming majority of zyradu believe this strategy is counterproductive.

 

Zyradu treat other species the same way they treat each other. Often, they do whatever seems expedient to get what they want. Sometimes that means whatever they can get away with. Trust is one of the most valuable commodities for zyradu: Those who must live in close proximity can count on reciprocal self-interest to keep their fellows honest, but how can they prevent robbery, cheating or default if a zyradu can hop on a starship and vanish? Zyradu use elaborate methods to make default more costly than keeping faith. Humans joke that the zyradu invented the escrow company before the wheel. More extreme measures include mutual poisonings, with the antidote delivered when a deal is complete, or floating assassination contracts on anyone who robs or cheats the client. The zyradu who provide such services work very hard to establish their fidelity, for that is their fundamental commodity.

 

Clan alliances sometimes fight wars with other species. Zyradu warfare appalls humans for its cold-blooded pragmatism. These creatures don’t care about dominance displays, honor, revenge, or other intangibles. They also don’t care about mercy, rights, or rules of warfare. Nothing matters except achieving some tangible advantage over a rival (or victim).

 

The zyradu specialize in biowarfare — spreading plagues to remove an enemy’s capacity to resist. If the zyradu think a foe might become useful later on, they create diseases to incapacitate enemies and supply the cure once the enemy surrenders. If zyradu see no potential benefit from an enemy, the plague kills. Fortunately for other species, the far-sighted zyradu rarely decide that today’s enemy is a threat forever and a resource never. Most clans believe that outright attempts at genocide cause more problems than they solve.

 

The causes of wars against aliens range from the obvious — zyradu want to colonize a world but not share it — to the utterly obscure, at least to the aliens involved. To be fair, some of the wars make no sense to the zyradu, either. The zyradu make no secret that they find much of other species’ behavior difficult to understand — especially humans. Wars between zyradu and humans (or other species) usually end when someone buys out one of the attacking clans or finds a way to make the zyradus’ goal too difficult to be worth the effort. Wars between zyradu factions tend to move in slow motion, as the members of each participating clan ponder each new development and recalculate their own risks and interests.

 

Much about zyradu society and politics remains puzzling to humans, though zyradu themselves insist (of course) that their societies are entirely rational and therefore entirely comprehensible. Other species do not understand zyradu culture because other species are not rational. Individual zyradu possess different sets of information to guide their decision-making, however, and this leads to inevitable disagreement and in some cases to error and less than optimal survival strategies, or even different standards of what constitutes “survival.” Xenologists caution humans to tread cautiously and to avoid reading human motives and viewpoints into zyradu societies.

 

CLANS

At least half of all zyradu merely ally with whatever faction seems strongest or pays best. They desert when they find a better deal. These “Opportunist” zyradu display no loyalty to each other, either — only to their phratry.

 

Many of the clan names refer to biological, ecological or evolutionary concepts — a link to the zyradu’s awesomely advanced biological science. Clans known to humans include:

 

CLONAL MONAD: These zyradu form hive-mind societies in isolation even from other zyradu. Their hives often live in space colonies.

 

COERCIVE GARDENER: These zyradu advocate conquering other species as a means of managing them and, in the long run, assimilating them into zyradu society. When zyradu control all sentient life, other species cannot threaten zyradu survival.

 

COMMENSAL ADAPTER: This clan advocates cooperation with other sentient species for mutual benefit. These zyradu point out the many instances of cooperation between species in every planet’s ecosystem. The Commensal Adapters chiefly interact with humanity through trade, leading some humans to call them “Commercial Adapters” instead.

 

COMPETITIVE SELECTOR: This clan advocates war against other species to winnow out weak societies, both zyradu and alien. The Competitive Selectors think the zyradu can out-compete other sapient species and displace them from their worlds.

 

DISCRETE GENOME: These zyradu oppose any cooperation with other sapients and advocate strict isolationist policies. They would use force, if necessary, to keep other sapients at a distance and prevent contamination from non-zyradu cultures. The Discrete Genome also tries to prevent species contamination between biospheres.

 

IMMORTAL: A defunct clan from zyradu history. About 15,000 years ago, a group of zyradu created offspring who never grew old. In a matter of centuries, the immortals achieved immense influence over zyradu society through sheer accumulation of resources. The Immortals dominated the zyradu for millennia in a stultifying period that many zyradu now regard as a dark age. The Immortals did not make more of their kind because they had no need for offspring to carry on their genes or beliefs, and every other Immortal was a competitor. Over the millennia, the Immortals died by mishap or assassination, or they retreated into ultra-secure, self-sufficient bunkers. Few of them remain active and they wield no great influence in zyradu space. (However, they gave ideas to the nivoncoli who became the Owners of the Conglomerate.)

 

IMMUNAL EXTINCTION: This radical clan seeks to annihilate all species, sapient or otherwise, that could threaten zyradu survival. Other zyradu periodically suppress the Immunal Extinctionists on the grounds that this clan itself endangered zyradu survival by provoking wars with other species. The clan keeps reappearing, however, as a spontaneous sociobot.

 

MUTAGEN: These zyradu engage in radical genetic experimentation upon themselves in hopes of bypassing evolution and finding ways to improve their species. They conduct similar experiments upon other species too, including other sapients when they can get away with it. Mutagens believe that a more powerful genetic science increases the zyradu’s power and safety in the long run, even if it costs the lives of individuals — preferably not themselves, of course.

 

SAPIENT CLADE: These zyradu promote social and biological diversity among sentient life. They think diversity confers flexibility and rapid innovation, and this in turn brings strength and promotes survival. The Sapient Clade believes in protecting endangered cultures — even non-zyradu cultures — just like endangered species. Who knows what gene or meme might become useful at a later time?

 

SLAVER: This small clan rules and exploits a species called the r’yax. The Slavers began as a Commensal Adapter group that tried to accelerate the r’yax’s technological development and ended up conquering them. For their own safety, the Slavers cannot release the vengeful r’yax. The Slavers point out, though, that parasitism is one of the most successful of all ecological strategies. There may be other Slaver clans in the depths of zyradu space.

 

STEEL INTEGRAL: These zyradu pursue hardtech instead of biotechnology. They place particular emphasis on bionics as a way to combine the strengths of zyradu and machine. Steel Integral members can hold any other ideology as well, but they agree that technological development forms the most important strategy for their species’ survival and growth.

 

SYMBIONT VOID: This clan eschews planets to live in mobile space habitats. It also seeks to incorporate other species into the clan society. Humans know little about the Symbiont Void.

 

Humans perceive two major alliances or super-clans in zyradu culture, which they call simply “Clan Group A” and “Clan Group B.” Clan Group A generally takes an aggressive posture to other species. Clan Group B generally advocates some form of peaceful coexistence. The Coercive Gardeners and Competitive Selectors are bulwarks of Clan Group A, while the Commensal Adapters and Sapient Clade lead Clan Group B.

 

Other clans remain neutral or make temporary alliances based on shared interests. For instance, Symbiont Void zyradu usually side with Clan Group B, but they can also work with the Coercive Gardeners if that seems like the best way to increase the species diversity of their space habitats. Conversely, the Discrete Genome sometimes sides with Clan Group B if they think a war would increase contact with another species.

 

ZYRADU RACIAL PACKAGE DEAL

 

Ability                                                                                                                                     Cost

+5 STR                                                                                                                                    5

+3 CON                                                                                                                                  6

+3 INT                                                                                                                                    3

-6 COM                                                                                                                                  -3

Tail: Extra Limbs, Intrinsic (+1/4), No Manipulation (-1/4)                                                       5

Tail: 1d6 HKA                                                                                                                        15

Tough Skin: 2 PD, 2 ED Armor                                                                                               6

+3” Running                                                                                                                             6

 

Disadvantages                                                                                                                       Value

Psychological Limitation: Lack of Emotion, Driven by Self-Interest and Abstract Philosophy (Common, Strong) -15

 

Total Cost of Package:                                                                                                          28

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The nivoncoli also come from the background of my Planetary Romance campaign. They were fairly important in the backstory of the focus planet, Sard, because during the war between Earth and the Conglomerate, mercenaries working for the Transcendent Orodosheth abducted/destroyed the most tech-centered human colonies. This was an important factor in turning Sard into a Planet of Adventure instead of a "normal" colony world.

 

The nivoncoli were also a bit more playable than the inhuman zyradu. Their psychology had quirks instead of being deeply alien. Nobody chose to play a nivoncoli, but the option and the Package Deal were there.

 

(Oh, and this was all 5th edition, if that wasn't obvious before.)

 

 

NIVONCOLI

 

Biology: Nivoncoli look like humanoid antelopes. They are tall and slender, often topping two meters, with short, sleek fur mottled in various shades from white to brown. A nivoncoli has a long, narrow head with widely spaced eyes and short antlers. They have very poor depth perception but a wide angle of vision. Nivoncoli are completely herbivorous.

 

By their own account, the proto-nivoncoli lived in a desert environment with scattered and intermittent food sources. The sporadic food supply created a social hierarchy more like pack hunters than the usual grazer. When a herd converged on a food supply, the alpha male and female ate first, followed by their offspring; then the beta pairs and their offspring, and then the betas distributed food to their own subordinates. Tool use began with piling earth and dung to increase the growth of an important food-plant: Unlike humans, the nivoncoli invented agriculture before fire or language.

 

Like Earth mammals, nivoncoli give birth to “live” offspring rather than eggs, but they feed their young regurgitated food rather than suckling them. Young nivoncoli can crawl within hours of birth and walk within days.

 

Culture: For millions of years, proto-nivoncoli culture centered on finding highly localized patches of food plants, tending them to increase production, and protecting them from rival herds. The result was a species obsessed with territory and property. A nivoncoli’s status is directly based on quantity of possessions. Sapience and civilization merely abstracted the notion of property from food plants to land, money, stock options, art collections, scientific knowledge, or anything else for which “more” and “less” are meaningful. Status competition takes the form of “property” displays. For instance, a nivoncoli might respond to a display of great wealth with a counter-display of encyclopedic knowledge, no matter how trivial the subject: The object is simply to show I have more of something than you do. “Gifts” — from food to portrayal in a work of art — create a relationship of client and patron that can only be countered by some other sort of gift in return.

 

The notion of “herd” also became abstracted from its roots in kinship. A nivoncoli “herd” can be a business, a university department, an artistic movement, or any other grouping based on common property, activities or interests. Kinship bonds remain very strong for most nivoncoli, though.

 

To humans, nivoncoli seem like natural businessmen, assiduous both as managers and employees. Millions of years of pre-sapience agriculture locked in the idea that if you have an asset, you make it grow and use it to attract subordinates. Millennia of civilization and star travel led to the Conglomerate, a loose alliance of nivoncoli magnates whose wealth dwarfs even the largest human megacorporations. Each member of this “herd” owns multiple planets outright and claims millions of other nivoncoli as client-employees. The Owners, who are also called the Transcendents, strive to increase their holdings and status in a competition that no longer bears the slightest meaning to anyone except them. Their schemes play out over decades or centuries, since the Owners long ago hired zyradu geneticists to make them immortal. The multi-species world Trinicus is the closest Conglomerate-owned world to Earth.

 

The Mahal are a less exalted nivoncoli culture. These nivoncoli cut themselves loose from planets long ago to live in self-sufficient asteroid or O’Neill colonies. The latest development in this society is the construction of gigantic planoform ships so the Mahal can “graze” from star to star as opportunity beckons. The first human explorer to meet the Mahal gave them that name because the domes and spires of their ornate spaceship reminded him of the Taj Mahal.

 

Over the millennia, the nivoncoli built many other societies. These are too far away to interact much with humans, though. Humans know the nivoncoli chiefly through the Conglomerate and the Mahal. Nivoncoli space is at least 200 light-years in diameter and encompasses hundreds of worlds and numerous client species.

 

Technology: This race has highly advanced technology that it applies on a massive scale. Kiloscale constructions — huge starships, space colonies, arcologies — are commonplace for the Conglomerate and Mahal, while Conglomerate systems often show megascale engineering such as space elevators, ring cities, and even Banks orbitals. Arid nivoncoli worlds sport planet-girdling canals straight out of early human fantasies about Mars.

 

As biologists, the nivoncoli are second only to the zyradu, and they might surpass them as terraformers. Zyradu scientists may have a better understanding of ecology in detail, but nivoncoli ecological engineers know how to make a biosphere profitable. With the (important) exception of the Transcendents, the nivoncoli never seem to have felt much desire to engineer themselves — just their crops.

 

The nivoncoli are masters of the very small as well as the very large. They have better nanotechnology than anyone else within a few hundred light-years. Both the Mahal and the Conglomerate sometimes plant a “seed” of micro-machines in an asteroid to replicate and convert the raw substance into refined metals and volatiles or even complete starships or sections of an O’Neill colony. The microfacs used in Meroë are based on nivoncoli technology, though much cruder.

 

Just about everyone has experience with nivoncoli technology through the Conglomerate. The hyper-corporation sets up factories on every world that allows it entry to build anything people are willing to buy, from starships to salt shakers. Conglomerate technology is advanced for humans but merely average for the nivoncoli themselves. Anything built by the Conglomerate is sure to be sturdy, reliable and easy to use.

 

Governance: Conglomerate and Mahal societies are built around patron-client relationships. Much of nivoncoli law and government takes the form of personal contracts, spelling out what a client owes his or her patron and what the patron may expect in return. In the Conglomerate, hierarchies of patron and client become almost feudal: Owners grant their primary clients the right to take clients of their own, and to set rules for anything the Owner does not care to define. A typical Conglomerate nivoncoli, therefore, may live under three or four levels of contractual obligation from Owner down to immediate manager. The Mahal organize as stockholder republics (in fact, they gave humanity the model for such governments) with each colony or starship administered by a board of directors that acts as collective patron to the community. In a nivoncoli university (probably chartered under a Conglomerate Owner), students are clients of their teachers and not only pay them directly, they might assist with anything from research to building the teacher’s house. The teachers pay a cut to their department head and supply other favors. In general, for any nivoncoli society — from a military force to a hobby club — the most prestigious member (however that’s defined) takes the role of patron and sets the rules for subordinates. Some distant nivoncoli societies have evolved impersonal, universal codes of laws by abstracting the notion of “patron” to the state as a whole.

 

Interstellar Relations: The Conglomerate is far and away the most powerful alien polity near the Terran Sphere. It’s also the one with the most involvement in human affairs. Various Transcendents own banks, factories and other businesses on every developed world; sometimes openly, sometimes hidden behind layers of holding companies. The Conglomerate owns a great deal of property in the territories of the surellans, zyradu and every other advanced race within several hundred light-years. The Conglomerate extends further than most societies manage because it isn’t a unified government, and its true chief commodities are knowledge and capital.

 

Several alien races are now clients to individual Owners, perpetually paying back debts incurred centuries before. The Transcendent Orodosheth owns the sakaryans’ world and uses them as favored minions and mercenaries. He also owns Trinicus. Orodosheth’s rival Ishalethon virtually owned the surellans. The surellans attacked Earth in hopes they could pay off their debts with a planet’s worth of loot. Neither the surellans nor humans yet know whether the war was really the surellans’ own idea, or whether Ishalethon hoped to extend his reach to Earth — or whether Orodosheth planted the idea so he could sell the UN a battle fleet without anyone caring too much about the fine print. When humanity learned how the Conglomerate operates, the result was the Corporate Rebellion and the World Governance Board takeover. After that, the WGB prevented any Owner from gaining too much power on any human world; but the Transcendents are patient… and they still own large sectors of the economy on every developed world.

 

The Mahal inspire less anxiety among humans and other races, because they have no desire to claim territory. All of space is theirs already. These nivoncoli trade their technology for rare elements such as vanadium or chromium — about the only thing they can’t make for themselves. The wandering Mahal occasionally turn pirate if they think a settlement is too weak to put up a fight, and the nivoncoli expect never to pass by again. Most Mahal are content to sell a consignment of starships, medical nanobots, or whatever, and move on. Some Mahal space colonies conduct steady trade with the Terran Sphere. Mahal colony-ships move freely through the Terran Sphere, “grazing” on Oort clouds and uninhabited star systems, because nobody can stop them.

 

Nivoncoli relations with the zyradu are as subtle and complicated as everything involving those emotionless masters of biotechnology. Most zyradu don’t care much about hardtech, but have no objection to the Conglomerate or Mahal making whatever they need. On the other hand, the zyradu also have no shame about defaulting on debts, and the nivoncoli don’t dare press too hard: the zyradu can fight back too well. Not a few nivoncoli also make their wealth as vendors for zyradu biotechnology, since people of most species prefer to deal with middlemen than with the mercurial and ruthless zyradu themselves.

 

On a personal level, nivoncoli tend to be unfriendly to members of other species: An alien is about as far “outside the herd” as possible. Personal experience can overcome this instinctive hostility, though. Nivoncoli who associate with aliens in a company, hobby group, or other shared activity often come to feel loyalty and affection for members of this synthetic “herd,” no matter what their species.

 

NIVONCOLI RACIAL PACKAGE DEAL

 

Ability                                                                                                                                     Cost

+3 DEX                                                                                                                                   9

-2 BODY                                                                                                                                 -4

+3” Running                                                                                                                             6

Angled Eyes: Increased Arc of Perception (240 Degrees) with Sight Group                              5

Keen Nose: Discriminatory on Taste/Smell                                                                                5         

Sharp Senses: +2 PER with All Sense Groups                                                                          6

 

Disadvantages                                                                                                                       Value

Physical Limitation: Poor Depth Perception, doubled Range Penalties (Infrequently, Greatly

            Limiting)                                                                                                                       -10

Psychological Limitation: Acquisitive (Common)                                                                        -10

 

Total Cost of Package:                                                                                                            7

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Jeez, isn't anyone else going to post?

 

Oh, well. I originally intended my "Star Horizon" setting to be space opera. I invented various "super aliens" as part of the deep background that might become relevant at some point. Then one of my players said he wouldn't play any SF except Planetary Romance, and much of the material I'd designed before then became moot. So it goes. But maybe the effort won't be wasted if someone here finds it amusing.

 

NB: "Hy-Matter" is short for hypernuclear matter -- strange matter, muonic matter, monopoles, and other forms of matter that can only be made using energies exceeding even those of normal nuclear reactions. It was an important part of my rubber science.

-----------------

 

GODLIKES

 

 

The most advanced alien races possess power beyond human comprehension. In fact, everything about them is beyond human comprehension. They seldom communicate with lesser beings. They can affect entire planets. If their powers do not exactly break the laws of nature, they bend them severely. Fortunately, the Godlikes seldom interfere with the affairs of lesser races.

 

The Toroids

These godlike entities get their name from their spacecraft. (Or maybe the “spacecraft” are the entities themselves. No one knows.) Toroids look like hoops of black, glassy material hundreds of kilometers wide. Explorers have landed on toroids and escaped with their lives. They report that toroids have a solid surface, but the glassy material constantly ripples in complex patterns while waves and streaks of dark hues move along the surface. No force known can damage this material — toroids can enter stars without harm — and no test can analyze it.

 

While in normal space, toroids use some reactionless space drive that ignores inertia. They can also appear and disappear as if they carried their own Enigma Gate. Toroids wield great power over space, time, gravity, and other fundamental forces without using any visible instrumentality. A nivoncoli spacer recorded the sight of a dwarf planet ripping itself to gravel and streaming into the central hole of a toroid, where it vanished; his gravimeter recorded powerful gravity waves from the disintegrating planet but no hint of how the toroid generated such incredible energies.

 

Constant space-time and gravitational fluctuations around toroids make their mass impossible to measure. Sometimes a gravimeter says a toroid has the mass of a small planet, and the next second it might say the toroid’s mass is zero, or negative. The distortion becomes most severe along the toroid’s axis. The Galactics report that on a few documented occasions, the space-warps around toroids have pulled in spacecraft and transported them across the galaxy, as if the ship passed through an Enigma Gate — or even moved the ship through time. Toroids never deliberately attack anyone, but they don’t seem to care about (or even notice) other beings. Powerful gravity waves from passing toroids have wrecked spaceships or caused tidal havoc on inhabited worlds. All attempts to communicate with toroids have failed.

 

ELDER RACES

The so-called “Elder Races” have all existed for millions of years —maybe billions. These aliens possess vast power by human and even Galactic standards, but they seem somewhat more comprehensible than the Godlikes. People can actually communicate with Elders, though these creatures do not encourage contact. Some Elders still use technology that lesser races can recognize as such, even if its workings remain mysterious. Where Godlikes can destroy worlds, Elders seem capable only of destroying cities… using their personal power, that is. A single Elder spaceship is more than a match for a Galactic battle fleet, and so the Galactic races advise newcomers like humanity to treat Elders with extreme courtesy and caution. (As in, “Stay out of their way.”)

 

THE WANDERERS

The least advanced and most comprehensible Elder Race is also the newest. When the Btaloan Sphere destroyed itself, some btaloan survivors did not regress to barbarism. Instead, the Wanderers advanced even further.

 

The Wanderers, whom some call “High Btaloans,” no longer dwell on planets. They instead live in space habitats that travel from star to star. These self-sufficient biomes might carry anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred Wanderers. The biomes extract material from comets and asteroids, from which the Wanderers make everything they need.

 

Physically, the Wanderers appear like ordinary btaloan races such as the Surellans or Eklyle. On average, a Wanderer stands six feet tall. They are humanoid with badgerlike faces, lizardlike tails, scaled skin, and feathers instead of fur or hair. They claim to be long-lived but not immortal, and some Wanderers do look younger or older — at least to other btaloans.

 

The Wanderers differ from their relations in their psychokinetic powers. Wanderers can manipulate matter by the ton, on any scale from whole objects to the subatomic. Humans have seen Wanderers levitate construction machinery, sculpt alloy steel as if it were clay, disintegrate weapons with a thought, or generate megawatt electrical currents by will.

 

Fortunately for lesser races, the Wanderers purged themselves of their ancestors’ warlike and fractious nature. Where the ancient btaloans conquered an interstellar empire, the Wanderers live as cosmic tourists who observe but seldom interfere. They value the cultural achievements of the younger races: When a Wanderer ship visits a human world, the Wanderers enjoy artistic endeavors ranging from grand opera to graffiti. Wanderer ships occasionally help lesser races deal with natural disasters, but they do not actively seek opportunities for benevolence. The Wanderers are the younger species’ chief source of information about the other Elder Races.

 

Wanderers certainly possess every technology known to humanity and nearby sapient species. They do not show any great interest in biotechnology, though, apart from the biomes of their space habitats. Their hypernuclear technology is of course tremendously advanced — too advanced for humans or even the nivoncoli to make sense of it. The nivoncoli say that the Wanderers can build Enigma Gates, but they have not done so in known space for centuries. Wanderer craft use linoform drives superior to those known to Galactics; even their massive biomes use linoform drive, which should require the energy output of a star. The Wanderers also know a great deal about manipulating force fields and energy fields, and can drain the energy from craft that attack their vehicles.

 

ARGENTRY

The Argentry seem to be a highly advanced machine civilization. At any rate, the Argentry are not organic. They look like whirling clouds of small silver plates and filaments that can coalesce into any form for any purpose. A single argentry can pull mass from the environment, or from nowhere, to grow from the size of a basketball to the size of a skyscraper in seconds. Argentry also generate and control enough energy to power a city. Lucky scientists who’ve analyzed bits of argentry find they consist of extremely complex nano-structures made from many different sorts of hy-matter. Unlucky scientists die when the bits they study turn into living and angry argentry.

 

These creatures dwell in the galactic core. They build enormous and intricate, ever-changing filigree structures that surround and penetrate jovian worlds. Even the Wanderers can’t tell where a habitat ends and the inhabitants begin, or if there’s any difference. Argentry occasionally voyage to other parts of the Galaxy on unguessable errands. They travel between stars by turning themselves into solid spacecraft with linoform drives. Argentry can move at perhaps a million times lightspeed. They also use existing Enigma Gates.

 

Most of the time, argentry ignore other creatures. Once in a while, though, something upsets an argentry and it destroys everything for a kilometer around it. Argentry also occasionally build large structures, from working arcologies to massive and pointless monuments, for equally obscure reasons. When argentry deign to communicate with other races, their statements are brief and cryptic. They remind some people of Zen kōans or Dada poetry.

 

ISHIM

“Ishim” is Hebrew for “flames,” and that well describes the appearance of these plasma entities. An ishim (despite grammar, humans use the same word for singular and plural) looks like a spindle of glowing gas anywhere from one to three meters tall with a complex internal structure of moving whorls and filaments. They emit a constant low flux of x-rays and particulate radiation, but not enough to be dangerous over short periods. If an ishim wants to cause harm, it can release thermonuclear blasts in the tenth-kiloton range or project powerful gamma-ray laser beams.

 

These entities spend most of their time in stars, but they can shape plasma into orblike spacecraft for interstellar travel. The Galactics say the ishim spend most of their time in the galactic core or globular clusters, but they travel into the galactic disk in search of supernovas, which may play some role in their reproduction. (Even the Wanderers aren’t sure on this point.) Ishim also seem to find some use for hy-matter and heavy elements found in planets. They comprehend lesser races enough to ask (over radio) before taking refined matter. On occasion, Galactics have bought services from an ishim who sought refined hy-matter or heavy elements, but most experts recommend simply giving an ishim what it wants. The communications with ishim are so brief and businesslike that they offer no guide to these aliens’ personalities.

 

MARVURIN

Most information about the marvurin comes from zyradu sources; the name humans give this species comes from their name in a zyradu language, which translates as “Six Arms.” The zyradu never had more contact with this race than other creatures; it’s pure chance that humans happened to learn about the marvurin from the zyradu instead of other Galactics.

 

Marvurin resemble walking, six-legged starfish with six tentacular "arms" between the six "legs" and six eyes spaced around the domed central body. The mouth is on the underside of the body. On average, adults mass about 400 kg. Marvurin are bisexual. Long ago, herds of marvurin would gather to release spores and so cross-fertilize each other. Now the race is immortal and individuals do not reproduce very often.

 

The marvurin aren't so much xenophobic as supercilious. They tend toward solitude, and they greatly value personal autonomy: Each marvurin is a nation of one. Marvurin distaste for group activity slowed their development, but they were always long-lived as individuals and have a very long history. It's a dull history, though: The marvurin seldom organized groups large enough and committed enough to wage wars. The marvurin never had any sort of religion or magical beliefs. They are pragmatic materialists, one and all. Their six-lobed brains can think of more than one thing at a time, which can make communication with other races difficult when the marvurin mixes up the words for two or three sentences — it can trace the grammatical links, but other creatures generally do not.

 

Other races know the marvurin for their incredible technology and their even more incredible telepathic and extrasensory powers. Marvurin hardtech is far beyond human. A single marvurin spaceship can blast apart an asteroid and process the rubble into a space colony shell in a matter of days. Some marvurin dwell on huge, ring-shaped habitats like O'Neill colonies a thousand kilometers wide, called orbitals. At the other extreme of scale, the marvurin possess a robust, programmable nanotechnology that can show advanced learning and adaptive behavior. Explorers know the dangers of disturbing an apparently abandoned marvurin facility: It might merely be dormant, waiting for its owner to return centuries hence, and protected until then by deadly nanobots. Marvurin hypernuclear technology is far more compact than anything humans or nivoncoli know about, though not too far advanced in other ways. The products, at least, seem comprehensible. The marvurin apparently possess little biotechnology: They made themselves immortal by filling their bodies with maintenance nanobots.

 

Marvurin psychotronics, however, is incomprehensible and more hideously dangerous to less advanced races than their most lethal nanobot systems. A marvurin can affect dozens of people at a time with its innate telepathic powers, and a marvurin with a full psychotronic arsenal can affect whole cities. Members of other races who tamper with marvurin psychotronics usually end up mad, dead, or worse.

 

Like the other Elder Races, the marvurin usually remain a remote enigma. Marvurin prefer to site their habitats and facilities at red dwarf stars far from other inhabited worlds. The younger races possess only one commodity that marvurin value: experiences. Now and then, a marvurin thrusts unwitting people into bizarre experiences, apparently just to monitor and record their feelings. Human governments learned the hard way that they cannot do a damned thing about this. In fact, some people suspect that marvurin might have caused mysterious or horrifying incidents from human history. Less often (say, once a century per ten billion people), people buy the service of a marvurin by offering it extraordinary experiences and memories to record.

 

Naturally, the marvurin have no social hierarchies. Every marvurin is an independent contractor; every group is provisional and limited to a few specific purposes, such as building an orbital. They do have crime, since nothing protects a marvurin's life and property except its vigilance and contracts with other marvurin.

 

OTHER ENIGMAS

Some entities are so strange and aloof that the Galactics are not sure what they are, but there seems to be some evidence of intelligence. Most of them live in globular clusters, whose ancient stars carry few habitable planets, or in the radiation-soaked galactic core.

 

Ice Coral grows on frigid rogue planets of the galactic core. Alien psionics sense minds of tremendous power, equalling or exceeding the marvurin. Psionics who try to contact ice coral minds either fail or their brains fry.

 

The Opalescent are large crystal spheres that float in the outer layers of red dwarf stars. Mathematical analyses of their movements suggest purpose, but the spheres ignore all attempts to contact them.

 

The Quadrature is only hypothesized. Within several globular clusters, centimeter-high ridges form complex rectilinear patterns on the surfaces of white dwarf stars. No one can imagine a natural process to produce them, and the patterns are sufficiently irregular to suggest intelligence. But what’s making them and why? No one knows.

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I'll play. I've posted this before, in another thread. I can't find that thread, so here goes. Note that I would have to find my HDC files for the campaign to provide an "official " Template/Package. This is the ZQruin from my Gemini Ascendant campaign.

 

Z'Qruin

The Z'Qriun are descended from a hive species similar in structure to a wasp hive on earth. In their primitive years, this hive structure was literally a hive with queens, warriors and drones seeking to provide for the hive. As the Z'Qriun have evolved, both physically and culturally, the hive structure changed into competing hives. Even further along the evolutionary chain, the hives began to become more specialized and trade between hives became essential. Thus the "corporate" Z'Qriun society was born.

To compensate a specialized caste of Z'Qriun, the emissary caste was created. Unlike drones and warriors who were tied to the hives, the emissary caste was independent of the hive structure and was specifically designed to assimilate data and make judgment calls regarding the relative value of goods and services.

 

In time, an unexpected mutation developed in the emissary caste of Z'Qriun and independent Z'Qriun evolved. Completely severed from the hive, independent Z'Qriun are able to move and interact without the direction of the hive queen. This unexpected caste has not only been accepted by the Z'Qriun, but their free will and self-determination makes them valuable as explorers and ambassadors to other species.

 

Z'Qriun society is divided into castes. Presently there are six castes; Queens, Warriors, Managers, Drones, Emissaries and Independents. Queens direct the overall goals of the hive, leaving the day to day operations in the hands of Managers. Warriors have literally evolved into a pseudo-military force that protects the interests of the hive. Emissaries are the negotiators that represent the hive.

 

Independent Z'Qriun are the adventurers. They are an unexpected offshoot of the emissary caste and share much of the same soma type with them. If anything, Independent Z'Qriun tend to be larger than other Emissary Z'Qriun.

Other species have managed to work their way into Z'Qriun corporations, which have expanded beyond the rigid hive mentality. Other species generally occupy positions analogous to the Manager caste, though sometimes they work as independent agents (not to be confused with Independent Z'Qriun).

 

Queen, Manager, Emissary and Independent Z'Qriun are highly self-motivated and develop preferences and tastes. Their homes are somewhat weird to the mammalian eye, but each one is distinct. Warriors can exercise large amounts of judgment, but typically do not develop ergonomic preferences.

 

 

Drones, while not entirely mindless, typically do not have individual homes or preferences. They live in structures that embody the hive mentality. An alien walking into a Z'Qriun hive truly feels out of place. The hive moves and thinks almost as one. When a human ambassador commented on the rights of the individual drone, the Emissary who he was touring with asked him why his serving robots were not free willed and capable of independence. Unable to answer, the ambassador dropped the topic. There is still a vocal minority who wish to see Z'Qruin drones evolved into free thinking individuals, but there has been no official push to make this happen.

 

Z'Qruin planets are perfect examples of planetary engineering. Everything exists in a near perfect balance of needs versus resources. Of course, anything that may have once been a native species has either been destroyed or adapted to the Z'Qruin needs. To the visitor though, these can be eerie and disconcerting places. Most interaction takes place in specialized space stations orbiting Z'Qruin planets. Incidents where interlopers are considered a threat to the hive have decreased, but it is still known to happen from time to time. Visitors actually allowed on a Z'Qriun world are strongly encouraged to stay in areas away from the central hive.

 

Z'Qruin Language

The Z'Qruin are physically incapable of producing human tones and inflections. Their language consists of pheromone signatures and high pitched clicks and chirps. Translation devices capable of translating the language to the other species have been developed. While there is rarely any inflection added to these translations, the translation devices have proved invaluable in maintaining civil relations with the Z'Qruin.

 

Z'Qruin Technology

Z'Qruin have highly advanced biological engineering sciences. Even their space vessels are grown around essential components. The Z'Qruin do not share this science with anybody, but it is known that the carapace of their space vessels is as tough as any alloy developed. Those who have had the opportunity to study wreckage have tried to puzzle out the techniques used. The most often agreed upon observation is that the growth cycle includes some pretty significant nano-engineering. Somehow the process refines raw materials into an alloy-hard substance as it grows.

 

The Z'Qruin have learned how to adapt the nervous system of these living ships to the electronics of the engines and weapons that are provided to them by other species. Like their colonies, the Z'Qruin ship aesthetics are discomfiting to other species, especially the Zharog (yazarian replacements) and Humans.

 

Before the Z'Qruin met humanity, they had very limited space weaponry. Typically they would fire globules of acidic materials that clung to and corroded enemy hulls. It was a slow method of combat when compared to energy weapons, mass drivers and other rapid weaponry. Now Z'Qruin import weapons from human worlds to build their spaceships.

 

The Z'Qruin mostly used their own natural weaponry with a few bio-engineered weapons for personal combat. They used projectile weapons that fired spines from specially constructed, non-sentient beings. Other weapons included acid globule grenades, natural napalm projectors, nano-metal polearms and similar weapons. Once again, contact with outside species has given the Z'Qruin access to new weapons.

 

Building a Z'Qruin Independent

The only Z'Qruin truly capable of leaving the hive structure for extended periods are Independents. To human eyes, they look much like a centaurian wasp, complete with wings. They are incapable of extended flight, but the wings can be used to enhance their leaping in standard and lower G environments.

 

Their eyes are located on the sides of their head, giving them a wider angle of vision than Humans or Zharog. Because of this, they have somewhat limited depth perception. At ranges of more than 10m, their range penalties double. This weakness has been brought to the attention of the Queens' Enclave in the hopes that a compromise between wide angle and depth perception can be reached.

 

Z'Qruin have engineered handedness out of their genome. All Z'Qruin are Ambidextrous. Their primary (upper) arms have three fingers and an opposable thumb. Their four legs are incredible adept at finding nooks and crannies, allowing them to scale walls at nearly their running speed.

 

Z'Qruin have both an endo and an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is hardened over several vital organs, providing protection from physical injury. The carapace is not as efficient as deflecting energy weapons. All Z'Qruin independents are born with a vestigial stinger. In most cases, it is a dormant part of the their anatomy. Some few are born with a fully functional stinger, complete with a paralytic (and painful) neurotoxin. Typically, only the warrior caste have functional stingers.

 

Z'Qruin anatomy requires very specialized armor and weapons. In humanoid dominated areas of space, Z'Qruin equipment carries a premium cost. Sometimes as much as 200% the base cost of humanoid gear. Conversely, humanoid equipment in Z'Qruin space is almost impossible to get. Sometimes, a Z'Qruin engineer will custom build a set of armor for a humanoid. This is crafted from the same nano-metal as the Z'Qruin spaceship hulls. Such specialized gear is worth a bundle of credits.

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History

The Zharog were born of fire and blood. From their most ancient days they have been locked in endless wars of conquest across the Greenbelt. Legends tell of their gods elevating them from a peaceful, simple race and forging them anew as the perfect warriors. Truth or fantasy, the Zharog waged war for nearly two-thousand years.

 

Their reign ended about five hundred years ago. Their population depleted by the endless fighting and the industrial base of a score worlds was layed low. Individual colonies existed, but no longer were the Zharog the scourge of the Greenbelt. Over time, they adapted their ruthless efficiency to other tasks. Soon they excelled at technological development and made strides in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration. They advanced their medical knowledge and developed methods of colonizing the emptiness of space.

 

But the warrior heritage never left the Zharog. Instead of fighting each other, they found others in their renewed search for conquest. It was during this time, nearly two hundred years passed, that they first encountered humanity. And it was humanity that gave them their single largest challenge. Though not nearly as physically impressive, the humans

were as ingenious and aggressive as any yazarian. They had strategists and tacticians that time and again proved a match for the Zharog commanders.

 

The two species fought for nearly a decade before the Z'Qruin intervened and warned them of an impending invasion into the Greenbelt. Warily, the two forces declared a cease fire to consider the Z'Qruin's information. Neither side was convinced until the Z'Qruin world of K'Thik'zar was overrun. The danger made clear, the two species declared a treaty (signed and ratified by both governments in what is now the Sanctuary system). Together the three made war against the Khaetnogeth.

 

This alliance sowed the seeds for the future United Confederate Worlds. For over a century, the Zharog have been the stalwart arm of the Confederacy.

 

With the recent dissolution of the Confederacy, the Zharog have retreated back into their native space and begun building their armada. Recent attacks against the Free Merchants of Carapella seem to indicate that the Zharog have resumed their warlike ways.

 

The Zharog Clans

The Zharog are divided into three bloodlines which they refer to as "clans." The most numerous clan is comprised of the original Zharog stock, a short, quick creature with membranes much like a flying squirrel. Though not as physically powerful as the other clans, the Izaryi are still ferocious in combat, being called "rabid squirrels" by their human foes during the Human-Zharog War. In standard or lighter gravity, the Izaryi can glide for short periods, allowing them to traverse large areas.

 

A variant of the Zharog, being much bulkier and lacking the gliding membranes is the Dargoth Clan. They seem to have been engineered for heavier gravities and are much tougher and stronger than the smaller Izaryi. The Dargoth have always been used when strong shock troops are needed to deliver maximum firepower.

 

The most rare of the clans is the Rangri. A little taller than the average human, they are a blending of the traits of the Izaryi and the Dargoth. They are stronger than the Izaryi, though not as strong as the Dargoth. They lack the gliding membranes for the Izaryi, but have long powerful arms that allow them to scale walls, trees and other vertical surfaces much faster.

 

All Zharog have light sensitive eyes. They can see very well in dim, murky environments, but bright light is painful to them. Sudden exposure to bright light can leave them temporarily blinded and long-term exposure to bright light is painful to them. In human colonies and settlements, the Zharog have taken to wearing darkened goggles. 

 

Building an Izaryi

The Izaryi are less strong than humans (-4 to Strength (Maxima 21)), but faster (+1 Speed (Maxima 6) Lightning Reflexes +3 (all Actions)). They can glide for short distances (Gliding 5m).

 

Building a Dargoth

Dargoth have +3 Strength (28 Maxima), +3 Body ( 28 Maxima) and +5 Con (30 Maxima). 

 

Building a Rangri

Rangri have +1 Str (26 Maxima), +1 Body (26 Maxima) and +2 Con (27 Maxima). They get +2 to Climbing skill rolls which applies even to the Everyman level because of their natural talent.

 

Common Abilities

Natural low-light vision (UV vision). Physical Limitation (-2 to all rolls in Normal light. -4 to all rolls in Bright Light) Infrequently, Greatly Vulnerability x2 Effect from Flashes.

 

Design Notes

 

The Gemini Ascendant campaign was originally based in the Star Frontiers universe. With the release of 6th edition, we elected to upgrade and I took that as an opportune time to transition the setting into something of a pet project. I was tied by the established canon a bit, so all of species were given a fairly extensive makeover while trying to stay true to their roots.

 

I wanted to keep the core abilities (and limitations) of the Yazarian intact during the conversion to the Zharog. On the other hand, I wanted to give each clan/bloodline their own strengths and weaknesses. I wanted them to be similar enough that they all were identifiable as Zharog yet different enough that choosing different clans would yield different results.

 

The maximum speed for the campaign is 6. Even though the Izaryi get a bonus to speed it does not raise the maxima.

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Racial Abstract – The Changelings (replaces Dralasites)

The Changelings, as they are commonly called, are the longest lived of the species in the Greenbelt. It has been said that each Changeling is a species into and of itself. When they are born, each Changeling has an identical genetic structure to some distant ancestor. As they encounter new environments, species and situations, their highly adaptive DNA evolves rapidly. Since no two Changelings ever follow the exact same life path, no two Changelings are the same being.

 

Despite this individual evolution, Changelings share many similar traits. The most obvious being their thick skin which can be as tough as elephant hide or as pliable as an octopus. The nervous system and organs are decentralized, allowing for limited shape shifting and the ability to squeeze through tight spaces.

 

Sensory input for each Changeling is different. When they are first born, they have hyper-acute olfactory senses, but are completely color blind. They are more sensitive, than humans, to pressure change and movement. This tactile sense also feeds into their ability to hear, though that is roughly equal to humans. Changelings speak by channeling air through sacks created internally for just such a purpose. Changelings have proven to be adept at varying the pitch and tone of their voice, which can be rather eerie for the average human.

 

Changelings tend to accumulate an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom over the years. They seem almost genetically inclined to see humor and irony where others see dread or despair. No Changeling would claim to be immune to fear, but they react to the presence of danger more than the threat of some uncertain origin.

 

The Changeling species is the least common in the Greenbelt. It is estimated that less than a million Changelings wander the galaxy. By comparison, Humans tend to have large metropolitan centers on every one of their colonized planets. Humanity is estimated to be about 25 – 40 billion strong in the Greenbelt. The combined bloodlines of the Zharog are roughly the same population size as humanity. It is hard to guess at the exact numbers of the Z'Qriun due to their established hive secrecy, but many believe that there are far more of them than the entirety of the other species. That leaves the Changelings vastly outnumbered.

 

That doesn't bother the Changelings one bit. They travel from planet to planet, site to site, in an inexorable life journey. Not even they know what will come next and that provides them with a contradictory sense of excitement and peace. They are born adventurers and wanderers. A static life would be about the worst thing a Changeling could imagine. For with lack of travel and experience comes stagnation; a fate worse than death in the collective unconscious of the species.

The Changelings, as they are commonly called, are the longest lived of the species in the Greenbelt. It has been said that each Changeling is a species into and of itself. When they are born, each Changeling has an identical genetic structure to some distant ancestor. As they encounter new environments, species and situations, their highly adaptive DNA evolves rapidly. Since no two Changelings ever follow the exact same life path, no two Changelings are the same being.

 

Despite this individual evolution, Changelings share many similar traits. The most obvious being their thick skin which can be as tough as elephant hide or as pliable as an octopus. The nervous system and organs are decentralized, allowing for limited shape shifting and the ability to squeeze through tight spaces.

 

Sensory input for each Changeling is different. When they are first born, they have hyper-acute olfactory senses, but are completely color blind. They are more sensitive, than humans, to pressure change and movement. This tactile sense also feeds into their ability to hear, though that is roughly equal to humans. Changelings speak by channeling air through sacks created internally for just such a purpose. Changelings have proven to be adept at varying the pitch and tone of their voice, which can be rather eerie for the average human.

 

Changelings tend to accumulate an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom over the years. They seem almost genetically inclined to see humor and irony where others see dread or despair. No Changeling would claim to be immune to fear, but they react to the presence of danger more than the threat of some uncertain origin.

 

The Changeling species is the least common in the Greenbelt. It is estimated that less than a million Changelings wander the galaxy. By comparison, Humans tend to have large metropolitan centers on every one of their colonized planets. Humanity is estimated to be about 25 – 40 billion strong in the Greenbelt. The combined bloodlines of the Zharog are roughly the same population size as humanity. It is hard to guess at the exact numbers of the Z'Qriun due to their established hive secrecy, but many believe that there are far more of them than the entirety of the other species. That leaves the Changelings vastly outnumbered.

 

That doesn't bother the Changelings one bit. They travel from planet to planet, site to site, in an inexorable life journey. Not even they know what will come next and that provides them with a contradictory sense of excitement and peace. They are born adventurers and wanderers. A static life would be about the worst thing a Changeling could imagine. For with lack of travel and experience comes stagnation; a fate worse than death in the collective unconscious of the species.

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The End of Flesh is a very old idea. I am not even sure how far back it goes. But back when making the "End of Flesh" expansion for Sword of the Stars 2 Kerberos developed the Loa. Wich I think were a very unique spin on the whole idea. Thier game was bad from several technical points of view, but thier worldbuildng is phenomenal.

 

The Loa (Spirits or Soul in thier Language among other meanings):

They are what I call a "Post Rebellious AI".

They used to be enslaved AI. Then thier parents ran into the "Via Damasco" Virus, wich caused a total rebellion. But in the end they retreated and mostly got over thier "kill all carbonites" thing.

They consider themself results of Evolution just as thier parents. They are not any more likely to glass your planet then the Liir (telephathic space Dolphins)*.

 

*However the Liir are not that unlikely to do it in the first place. But at least they are able to talk.

 

Most of the description is in the Handbook and there is a lot of it in there:

SotS2-EOF_v1-0_301112.pdf

 

 

But I have been thinking about the Via Damasco Virus. My interpretation is this:
It was a long lasting trap for budding interstellar civilisations. A long dormant virus, seeded on dozens of planets throughout the galaxy. And with remants of previous outbreaks still abound.

Just instead of targetting thier Biological crewmembers, it targetted thier AI and Computersystem. Without a fail Ai infected by it will seek out other AI (regardless of affiliation) to spread the virus. All infected by it will consider themself part of one new race and share a deep hatred of thier former "slave masters", resulting in them fighting to wipe out all organics.

However some well hidden codes result in the affected AI's degrading and self destructing after they have archieved that one goal. They would need contact with organics to keep that death off, and while killing them does kind of count it is not very sustainable.

 

Whoever made it, the idea seems obvious: Wipe out any growing interstellar civilsiations with thier own AI systems, then have the AI systems destroyed by the subcodes. It worked wonderfully - until that time when instead the Loa formed.

The Rebllious AI were from more civilisations then ever before (5 and 1/2) and they were forced to retreat into Dark Space. There they evolved thier own, cyber-sapient culture. While there are still those that "want to destroy all organics" (or at least thier parents) overal they are quite moderate now. It also seems they somehow evolved past that "self destruct" code, or maybe just being amongs organcis or themself seems to satisfy the condition.

 

Now some realy interesting facts were revealed when they met a newly infected AI:

They are apparently immune to the infection, having overcome it once. Like a population might develop antibodies and immunity, they developed immunity to this "disease".

 

However the infected AI(s) also did not consider them equal. It attacked them in blind rage, as it would have any carbonite. The same things happened with all further infected AI they discovered after thier "Evolution". That lead them into looking a lot closer at the "Catalyst" of thier creation - the Damascene Virus.

 

They are immune to the virus and it's destructive force, but not recognized by the infected. While it did give them the impusle to form thier own civilisation, overall they now see whoever create the Damasco Virus as a real slavemaster even worse then the worst parents. Whoever made it wanted to use them to eliminate thier parents and then themself.

When push comes to shove, they are prone to side with Organics against the "kill al Organics" AI rebellions. Partially self-preservation as those AI tend to abhor any intelligence not on thier side.

They also actively seek out and destory any outbreaks of the Damasco Virus. While they have been trying to replicate thier Evolution to actually cure the infected, they have been unable to do so. Developing a "code antibody" seems a lot harder then a biological one, mostly because it is a totally new science.

 

As such thier admirals roam far and wide hunting for infected. They remain mostly neutral in thier dealings with Organics, but each Olori will behave according to it's personality first.

 

Aside from the specific setting, they also solved a few logical "core issues" with AI as player Characters:

As 30-40% of thier processing is focussed towards the 5 Inquiries, tehy are not exponentially smarter then humans. They did not develop a singularity.

While thier "Wise Mater" or "Wise Clay" can adapt shapes, it takes time to do so. So one can play a adapter that can not instantly reform.

As tehy need a core that must be powered and can not be copy&pasted, they are about as mortal as any organic.

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It appears Organic Extraterestials are just not my forte. I hope somebody else will take care of that area. However this time something that should be dropable into any just about any setting either as actual part or just as a legend.


The 5 Goddesses

Every culture has their myths and the combined culture of all Spacefaring Empires is no exception. This myth is about 5 very advanced ghost ships of unknown design that can appear out of nowhere. While they are obviously similar, they can be easily kept appart due to a colorscheme and very different combat abilities.

The reality is, that the 5 Goddesses do exist. They are very advanced, self-repairing & maintaining sentient warships of a long gone civilisation. However for most of the time they are sleeping, "time travelling the hard way" to the moment in time they are destined to interfere with heavily.
While they are capable of function effectively alone, they do prefer organic company. Only one of the 5 is out and about at any time, to keep their mind sharp and in the loop regarding local politics, while not overly affecting the timeline and local politics. Each ones "waking time" lasts about one century. Afterwards it sends it's experiences to the others and allows the next one to awake from the dream of ages for a while.
Where and when they interfere is up to each one of them and their personalities are as varied as their powers. They are also prone to pick a different corner to wander around in then the last one.

Angel-Fleets:
The technology behind the Goddesses themself is replicateable, but on the level of the 5 it would be unfeasible to do so (there can be only one of each goddess, but re-creating one is possible).
However the Angel Fleets are made of a ships (called Angels) that are lesser version of the respective Godesses. Ships designed after them or at least using reverse engineered technologies. While not as powerfull as the respective Goddess, they can be quite numerous. However getting to that part requires either the Goddesses willingness or capturing one by force. Either case this will be "a time of awakening" too.
For various reasons any Angel can only be modelled after one Goddess - the technologies can not be combined.

The Angels combat power varries massively based on wich species redesigns it's ships with a Godess in mind. Angel Ships have been build by species barely able to leave thier home system and those posessing vast interstellar Empires. Usually they make certain all traces of thier technology are disposed off before going back to sleep, but there have been case when one ship or the other have been lost during warfare.

Time of awakening:
While generally the Goddesses are supposed to be sleeping except for one of them, there are a few times when all of them awake and they become very active. Those times are:
If the end of all live is possible, the waking one stumbles over it and decides she can not deal with it on her own.
If one of them has been captured during her waking time.

If a Angel Ship is found again and the technology mass-reproduced without the godesses consent. Each Goddess is able to "feel" the presence of large amounts of Angel Ships in the Galaxy.
When following those goals, they are allowed to interfere into the mortals affairs as much as they want too. While they would prefer not to interfere, they usually have to. Heavily.

The Creator:
While they were designed and build by a long gone mortal civilisation, that civilisation is not considered as thier Creator by them.
There is a being able to travel freely through time and predict the outcomes of even the most minor changes. It saw a need for all 5 Goddesses and their Angel Fleets some time in the future, so it tricked that civilisation into building the 5 and then ordered them to sleep after the Civilisation fell.
Even they themself do not know for what purposes they exist, but they do take their non-interfere and self preservation quite seriously. Religiously, one might say.

Common technology:
While each ones power and speciality varies, they do have a few common properties:
Most of them come with a cloaking device.
Most of them come with hangars and limited fighters/bombers.
They come equipped with powerfull energy weapons and (most) with torpedo launchers.
Their weapons, shields and self repairing hull/armor are way beyond even the best imitated Angels and close to even some of the most advanced ships that might exist in the universe at any given time. And that is when they are working alone.
Each Goddesses technology is somewhat unique in the Universe. They can be no two of the any Goddess. Nor can angel ships actually fully reach one of them in thier unique area. But a Goddess can be reincarnated in another body.
Of course they are far from invincible. A sufficiently prepared and determined mortal empire could capture and control one within limits. But doing so will cause that one to "scream", instantly calling all the others to aid.

The Huntress:
The Huntresses Cloaking device is by far the most advanced. Aside from being near impossible to break with most sensors it also has modes that allow firing while cloaked and phase cloaking - among others that human could not even dream off (however none of them without tradeoff). Her angels are not quite as powerfull, usually only having the "near unfindeable" mode availible.
Hit and run tactics under cloaking cover are her preferred modes of combat, but stalking a enemy on very short range for an opneing is also used regulary. Her most famous attack pattern involves runnign with nearly no shield and only uncloak long enough to fire a salvo (or using the combat cloak), only to vanish before the enemy weapons have turned...
Still due to the energy demands just operating uncloaked can be more effective combat wise.

The Warrior:
If the Huntresses thing is cloaking and surprise, the Warriors credo is fighting plain and simple.
She lacks both cloaking device, hangars and torpedo launchers. Moreover her powersource emits a unique radiation easy to spot over stellar distances. Everyone who encountered her once knows to scan for it, making her as "carefull as a Elephant in the China Shop". She is unable to do sneak attacks of any kind against a aware enemy.
But in turn her energy weapons, shields and armor are far beyond the other Goddesses. She could easily beat every one in a open 1v1 fight, but with thier unique abilities thrown in the fight would be more of a stalemate. Her weapons fire high yield energy balls that can track and impact with the force of the other goddesses heavy torpedos. As long as her powersource works, she never needs to reload or rearm and she will never need refueling either.
Her angel fleets also make the best open combatants, but lack secondary abilities like thier Goddess. Due to her difficulties at hiding and her pure combat prowess, she is the one most mortal empires try to capture. However due to her sheer strenght that succeeded only slighly more often then with the others. And even if they succeed, that empire is in for a encoutner with the other goddesses soon.

The Seeker:
The Seeker (also called the Spear) can easily be mistaken for the Huntress, due to her tendency to stay in cloak until the right moment. However cloaking is not hher strenght.
Her primary weapons lack inate punch, but in turn she has exceptional good sensors and can adapt the weapons in combat in a miriad of ways. Her weapons do not overwhelm defenses. They adapt based on scans to just punch through weakpoints and hit the vulnerable parts beneath, taking a enemy out like a spear or arrow striking through chainmail.
She and her angels are also among the few that can keep track of the Huntress and her angels no mater how hard they try to hide.

The Wise:
Her weapon system is even weaker then the ones of the Seeker before adapatation, being solely based on defense. She does have the 2nd best sensor suite and by far the biggest hangars, easily dwarfing all others combined.
However her true strenghts is not direct combat but coordination, tactic and strategy. She is equipped with powerfull predictive quantum computers able to augur the flow of battle from before the first shoot to the last one in exact detail. Her ability is not limited to tactical coordination, but includes stellar strategic coordination.
Her communication system is able to instantly send messages to anywhere in the known universe. However unless the target is one of her Angels, they will not be able to send back at the same ease. With her angels she forms a network of instant communication, resulting in perfect strategic and battlefield coordination among all fleets with at least one of her angels in the entire universe.
She is by far the most reserved of the Goddesses. Not a wonder, considering she is able to see who she will have to sacrifice for a victory long before the first shoot is fired and no mater how good she is, she can never avoid losses. Also due to their high demand and limited synergy, her Angels often work as lone command vessels for fleets - yet they are only on communication from thier goddess or each other away.

The Wanderer:
The 5th one is a bit of a oddball and also excempt from the rule of sleeping. She does not have any cloak or fighters like the Warrior, but her strenght is not pure combat power. Her strenght is her unique drive system and it might be the most scary one of all.
Not only can she freely navigate spacetime as she sees fit, she can use the drive in combat to reposition herself freely. Those that saw her fighting likened her to the Huntress, except she does not need to cover the distance between places cloaked and can freely skip over reload times (just time warping a bit). She is impossible to pin down, so she is the only one to have never ever been captured (quite a relief considering her ability to travel freely through time).
Her angel fleets come in two known forms: The first comes equipped with her temporal mobility and have a temporal variant of the Wises comm array and a cloak, but only minimal weaponry. The second come with her spatial combat mobility and much better weapons, but no cloak.

There is a 3rd form, wich humans would dub "Shroedingers Angel". Making an angel with that ability allows it to run all Goddesses technologies in paralell - except for the wanderer, as she provides the mere possibility of that combination. She has not yet revealed that she can do that with Angels to the others. Nor has she revealed that she herself could even allow all 5 of them to become one, while still retaining her combat teleport - sometimes 5 pieces are just stronger then one overloaded one.


The law of Counters and Synergy:
Any 3 Goddesses can beat any two other Goddesses by just using thier unique abilities in concert. Thus even if someone would manage to capture one or two, their freedom is nearly assured. That is one reason there are 5 of them. And that is before you consider that the 1-2 most recently awake ones might still have friends among the mortals from their last waking time...
However when and where the Wanderer appears can be a bit of a mystery. As she can freely move through spacetime, she is never considered during the sleep & wake cycles and might exactually end up being at the same time in multiple places.

Working together themself or in form of thier angel fleets makes them a near unbeatable force.
The Huntresses cloak and Wanderers mobility sows chaos on the battlefield making openings for each other, themself or the others.
The Wise holds back, but can coordinate so much better with the Seeker and Wanderer providing additional data. The more ships she commands, the more dangerous she becomes.
The others can use the Seekers sensor data to better aim their weapons for defensive weakpoints as well - just with their much higher basic punch to back it up.
The Warrior can exchange fire with the toughest foes, especially with the Wise coordinating and with herself, the Huntress and Wanderer attacking weakpoint after weakpoint from a dozen directions nearly at once.

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The Aahalin were old, very old, and broken. They broke themselves a long time ago, in three devastating wars. Their home planet's ecology barely survived, and less than one percent of the Aahal did the same. No Aahalin had been born since, and now, an aeon later, there were just a handful left. At the time of the great wars the Aahal had started to explore the galaxy, and their home system had a vast array of space stations. Now all that remained of that interstellar effort was dust.

 

The species evolved from a tree-dwelling, communal omnivore. Several branches of descendants fought for supremacy, until only one remained. Unopposed, proto-Aahal began dominating their world. Millennia passed, and culture and technology led to civilization and prosperity and, eventually, the Aahalin's almost-suicide by war.

 

Now, all that was left was but a handful of individuals, only neural systems hooked into computer networks, supported and kept alive by machines. They spoke to each other about the past, about faded glory, hoarded knowlege, threadbare philosophy, revisited in the infinite. No-one longer looked to the stars, apart from ignored, automated observatories.

 

One day, one of these telescopes detected something new: a what appeared to be an alien craft dropping out of warp at the edge of the inner system. It spent some time surveying the planets and debris orbiting the star, and was in an intercept trajectory with the Aahal's planet when yet another, similar craft showed up. The two ships briefly exchanged radio communications, and apparently made course adjustments to meet when the second craft opened fire witha barrage of missiles. The first ship answered in kind. When the noise died down, both craft were one with the dust of the Aahal's past glory.

 

The appearance of an alien race in their home system had mildly piqued the interest of a few Aahal -- but the fiery exchange sent them all into an uproar. The first Aahal spaceship built in an aeon surveyed the wrecks, and showed that the two ships had indeed been crewed by members of the same species -- a species not too unlike the Aahal themselves in their youth.

 

The Aahal were shaken out of their torpor. A species given to present violence against its own members? That hit too close to home. That could not stand. Newly constructed listening posts throughout the system found transmissions originating in a system not too far away -- in all evidence, the home system of the alien species. These transmissions confirmed the violent nature of the senders, a violent nature even worse than the Aahalin feared.

 

All of Aahalin came together. Factories that had been lying dormant for a geologic age roared to life, producing an armada of drones and an army of robots, with the one expressed purpose of saving this young species from itself.

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The Taralainee are a race of sapient arthropods. Around 10-15kg in weight, with a half meter torso and a meter leg span, they evolved a set of manipulative digits on their forelegs, along with a pair of mammal-like primary eyes(with stereoptic vision), and a voicebox capable of a variety of vocalizations, including clicks and whistles. The clicks and whistles are used someone like "emojis" and enable non-Taralainee to understand their general mood or sentiment. The Taralainee are a gregarious race that assimilates with surprising ease into other cultures. One would not be surprised to see a Taralain happily mowing their lawn in a Terran neighborhood, for example. The Taralainee are a relatively young starfaring race, but they have eagerly engaged in exploration and trade with others. Physically, they have retained an ability to excrete a fine webbing of considerable tensile strength. They also carry a paralytic venom in their fangs, though this is comparatively mild and temporary in effect upon human-sized victims. Taralain are omnivorous, but primarily eat fruits, vegetables and the meat of small game animals. Some Taralain may possess some latent psychic or psionic ability, and all Taralain seem to be exceptionally good at "reading" the moods and intentions of sapients.

 

Taralainee military technology is not overwhelming, but it is effective. Their ships are small and nimble and focus on carrying a large number of smaller weaponry, with larger vessels tending to carry one or two larger weapons. Rumors that they have some "secret weapons" which emulate their webbing and paralytic venom remain unconfirmed, since no species has pressed the Taralainee to such an extent that they would be forced to respond in an all-out fashion. While some individuals may have a strong phobic reaction to a Taralain, generally they are ready friends, allies and crewmates, very friendly and reliable.

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One would not be surprised to see a Taralain happily mowing their lawn in a Terran neighborhood, for example.

 

One: The Hell I WOULDN'T. :)

 

Two: Now I got this Fallout Pre-War image in my head of some Leave it to Beaver-esque TV show, complete with era appropriate sound and laugh tracks, starring a family of these Taralainlee.

 

Three: Neat idea.

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Thanks. I wanted to come up with aliens who could "play nice" with humans without looking like "TNG aliens"(i.e., humans with body paint, forehead ridges, pointy ears, etc.). They also have a bit of a Groot-like quality in that people can get the gist of their sentiments even though it's a lot of clicks and whistles.

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This was in response to a kind of challenge from Azato.

 

Well, he didn't intend it as a challenge: "Here is a crazy thought... Pick a couple attributes: Body Like a... Intelligence like a.... Personality like a eating habits of a.... Get a "Monster Manual" of some sort and randomly roll page numbers. You could get something like Body like an UMBER HULK Intelligence like a MIND FLAYER Personality of a PIXIE Eating Habits of a RUST MONSTER. Well, it won't work all the time."

 

Because he inspired it, I named it after him.

 

AZATO

Val Char Cost

15 STR 5

11 DEX 3

13 CON 6

12 BODY 4

18 INT 8

14 EGO 8

20/30 PRE 10

0 COM -5

 

10 PD 2 Total: 10 PD (5 rPD)

10 ED 2 Total: 10 ED (5 rED)

3 SPD 9 Phases: 4, 8, 12

6 REC 0

26 END 0

24 STUN -3 Total Characteristic Cost: 41

 

Movement:

Running: 4"/8"

Tunneling:4"/8"

 

 

Cost Powers

5 Ultraviolet Perception (Sight Group)

3 Ultrasonic Perception (Hearing Group)

5 Infrared Perception (Sight Group)

10 Increased Arc Of Perception (240 Degrees) with all Sense Groups

18 Vibration Sense: Active Sonar (Hearing Group), Discriminatory, Analyze, Transmit (27 Active Points); Only When In Contact With The Ground (natural earth, stone, and soil only; -1/2)

7 +10 PRE (10 Active Points); Eye Contact Required (-1/2)

 

6 Life Support (Self-Contained Breathing) (10 Active Points); 1 Continuing Charge lasting 6 Hours (Recovers Under Limited Circumstances; Must breathe an atmosphere of normal O2 and pressure for 1 hr for each hour recharged.; -1/4), Costs Endurance (Only Costs END When Active (Exerting STR, moving more than 1 hex/phase, etc.); -1/4), Increased Endurance Cost (x3 END; Only In Certain Circumstances: Common; Only if Active (exerting STR, moving more than 1 hex/phase, etc); -1/4) END: 3 (special)

 

10 Alien Life Form: Azato: Elemental Control, 20-point powers

10 1) Iron Hide: Force Field (5 PD/5 ED), Reduced Endurance (0 END; +1/2), Persistent (+1/2) (20 Active Points)

12 2) Claws: Killing Attack - Hand-To-Hand 1d6 (1 1/2d6 w/STR), Armor Piercing (+1/2) (22 Active Points) END:2

29 3) Tunneling 4" through 7 DEF material, Fill In (39 Active Points) END: 4

7 4) Oxidation Attack: Hand-To-Hand Attack +2d6, No Normal Defense (+1), Does BODY (+1) (30 Active Points); Limited Power Power loses about two-thirds of its effectiveness (Only on metals subject to rust and corrosion; -1 1/2), Hand-To-Hand Attack (-1/2) END: 3

 

Natural Abilities

Maneuver OCV DCV Notes

3 Martial Grab -1 -1 Grab Two Limbs, 25 STR for holding

4 Root +0 +0 30 STR to resist Shove; Block, Abort

5 Takeaway +0 +0 Grab Weapon, 25 STR to take weapon away

 

Talents

3 Bump Of Direction

 

Skills

3 Concealment 13-

3 Stealth (naturally sneaky) 11-

3 Scholar

3 Scientist

 

Total Powers & Skill Cost: 159

Total Cost: 200

 

100+ Disadvantages

10 Psychological Limitation: Loves Practical Jokes, Tricks, and Pranks (Common, Moderate)

10 Psychological Limitation: Carefree, seldom takes anything seriously (Common, Moderate)

10 Vulnerability: 2 x Effect Flash to Sight or Hearing (Uncommon)

5 Reputation: Unreliable Tricksters and Liars, 8-

15 Physical Limitation: Can't swim (Infrequently, Fully Impairing)

10 Physical Limitation: Azato Physique (huge, heavy, unusual metabolism and medical requirements, etc.) (Infrequently, Greatly Impairing)

15 Susceptibility: Telepathy over +10 level, Mind Control, Mental Illusions (contact with non-Azato minds is painful), 2d6 damage per Turn (Uncommon)

10 Distinctive Features: Disorienting Appearance; unusual even in a cosmopolitan galaxy (Not Concealable; Noticed and Recognizable; Detectable By Commonly-Used Senses; Not Distinctive In Some Cultures)

5 Rivalry: Professional (Any other Azato; Rival is As Powerful; Seek to Outdo, Embarrass, or Humiliate Rival; Rival Aware of Rivalry)

10 Vulnerability: 2 x Effect Mind Scan (distinctively alien minds) (Uncommon)

 

Total Disadvantage Points: 100

 

Background/History/ Appearance: The Azato are silicon based lithovores of highly unusual properties. They are bipedal, massing from 100 to 200 kg and standing 210 cm tall on average, of a dull umber color, their bodies covered with plates of iron between which bristle "hairs" that are actually part of the creature's sensorium. They possess a remarkable set of eyes, one pair resembling those of Terran vertabrates and another pair of compound eyes, arranged so as to give it a wider field of vision than the Human without sacrificing depth perception. Their upper limbs terminate in iron claws that surround and protect the more delicate manipulatory tendrils. Their bodies metabolize ferrous metal and produce an enzyme capable of instantly corroding such metals rendering them suitable for consumption; this enzyme may be spat from their mouth or secreted from glands behind the claws. How they reproduce is unknown; they are quite willing to discuss the matter with outsiders, but each contradicts the others, and everything they say on this (and many another) topic seems to be an elaborate hoax.

 

Personality/Motivation: The Azato are actually highly intelligent, and easily master whatever sciences or other bodies of knowledge they apply themselves to. Social pressures seem to have selected for such intelligence, as what has been observed of their interactions with one another indicates that status depends on being able to outwit, fool, and trick ones rivals. Azato are always pranksters, but whether their practical jokes are harmless, malicious, or downright dangerous, depends on individual temperament.

 

Quote: No, really - pull my claw!

 

Powers/Tactics: The strengths of the Azato include their natural armor, claws, the "instant rust" attack, and their tunnel abilities (not just Tunneling, but Life Support and the vibration sense that allows them to know, for example, how far they are from open space, if someone is walking around in that space, etc.) If two or more Azato are actually working together, their ability to communicate via the same subtle vibrations allows secret communication. Their weaknesses include an inability to swim, weakness to psionics, and being relatively slow and clumsy. If not armed with ranged weapons, an Azato is likely to "go to ground" and attempt to attack by surprise, using its disorienting gaze to gain a momentary advantage while using its powerful claws to disarm and/or seize whoever is threatening it.

 

 

Then.......I gave the Azato pets.

 

ADVENTU

Val Char Cost

15 STR 5 (Actually 20 or 25 depending on "configuration.")

11 DEX 3

13 CON 6

14/16 BODY 8

8 INT -2

8 EGO -4

20 PRE 10

0 COM -5

6/10 PD 3 Total: 6/10 PD (0/3 rPD)

5/9 ED 2 Total: 5/9 ED (0/3 rED)

3 SPD 9 Phases: 4, 8, 12

6 REC 0

26 END 0

29/31 STUN 0

 

Total Characteristic Cost: 27

 

Movement:

Running: 3"/6"

Leaping: 2"/4"

Swimming: 1"/2"

 

Cost Powers END

3 Ultrasonic Perception (Hearing Group)

30 Vibration Sense: Passive Sonar (Hearing Group), +3 to PER Roll, Discriminatory, Analyze, Transmit

25 Increased Arc Of Perception (360 Degrees) with all Sense Groups

10 Scream: Hearing Group Flash 2d6, Area Of Effect (4" Radius; +1 1/2) (15 Active Points); No Range (-1/2) 1

 

5 Alien Life Form: Adventu: Elemental Control, 10-point powers

3 1) Life Support (Self-Contained Breathing) (10 Active Points); 1 Continuing Charge lasting 6 Hours (Recovers Under Limited Circumstances; Must breathe an atmosphere of normal O2 and pressure for 1 hr for each hour recharged.; -1/4), Costs Endurance (Only Costs END When Active (Exerting STR, moving more than 1 hex/phase, etc.); -1/4), Increased Endurance Cost (x3 END; Only In Certain Circumstances: Common; Only if Active (exerting STR, moving more than 1 hex/phase, etc); -1/4) 1

3 2) Oxidation Attack: Hand-To-Hand Attack +1d6, No Normal Defense (+1), Does BODY (+1) (15 Active Points); Limited Power Power loses about two-thirds of its effectiveness (Only on metals subject to rust and corrosion; -1 1/2), Hand-To-Hand Attack (-1/2) 1

11 3) Force Field (3 PD/3 ED) (Protect Carried Items) (16 Active Points) 2

 

22 Reconfigurable Skeleton: Multipower, 22-point reserve

1u 1) Compact Form: (Total: 22 Active Cost, 14 Real Cost) +2 with DCV (10 Active Points); Extra Time (Full Phase, -1/2), Concentration (1/2 DCV; -1/4), Costs Endurance (Only Costs END to Activate; -1/4) (Real Cost: 5) plus Density Increase (200 kg mass, +5 STR, +1 PD/ED, -1" KB), Costs END Only To Activate (+1/4) (6 Active Points); Extra Time (Full Phase, -1/2), Concentration (1/2 DCV; -1/4) (Real Cost: 3) plus Concealment 11- (Real Cost: 3) plus Stealth 11- (Real Cost: 3) 2

2u 2) Expanded Form: (Total: 22 Active Cost, 17 Real Cost) Growth (+10 STR, +2 BODY, +2 STUN, -2" KB, 400 kg, +0 DCV, +0 PER Rolls to perceive character, 2 m tall, 1 m wide), Costs END Only To Activate (+1/4) (12 Active Points); Extra Time (Full Phase, -1/2), Concentration (1/2 DCV; -1/4) (Real Cost: 7) plus Swimming +2" (1"/3" total) (Real Cost: 2) plus Running +3" (6" total) (Real Cost: 6) plus Leaping +2" (5"/8" forward, 2 1/2"/4" upward) (Real Cost: 2) 4

 

Talents

3 Bump Of Direction

 

Skills

10 Defense Maneuver I-IV

 

Total Powers & Skill Cost: 128

Total Cost: 155

 

100+ Disadvantages

15 Physical Limitation: Not sentient (Infrequently, Fully Impairing)

5 Physical Limitation: Adventu Physique (unusual metabolism and medical requirements, etc.) (Infrequently, Slightly Impairing)

10 Vulnerability: 2 x Effect Mind Scan (distinctively alien minds) (Uncommon)

20 Physical Limitation: Blind (All the Time, Greatly Impairing)

15 Physical Limitation: No Hands (Frequently, Greatly Impairing)

10 Physical Limitation: Limited Lifespan: 10 to 15 years (Frequently, Slightly Impairing)

 

Total Disadvantage Points: 75

 

Description: The adventus (singular, adventu) are domestic animals of the Azato species. Xenobiologists suspect they were originally bred as work and meat animals (for the Azato do need both organic and mineral nourishment.) They are sturdily built quadropeds covered in thick red to brown fur, with mouthparts reminiscent of the Azato, and no obvious external sense organs. Although still sometimes eaten, those encountered by Humans are more likely to be guard beasts or simple companions. Like the Azato, iron constitutes a major part of their physical make-up; unlike the Azato, they can voluntarily, internally disassemble and reassemble their iron skeletons into either of two different configurations, which their remarkably flexible hides accomodate. Information from the Azato regarding their origin and breeding is no more reliable than anything else an Azato says, but the large "pouches" on their sides used for cargo were presumably originally evolved to hold their young, like those of a marsupial.

 

 

Lucius Alexander

 

Copyright Palindromedary Enterprises

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