Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Campaign Design - Base Classes: Adherent

Adherent
(from AEG's Good)

The adherent is an NPC class.

Most of those who serve a celestial or infernal power do not serve as clerics or paladins, but rather work the will of the heavens or hells by maintaining the libraries, the graveyards, and the churches. Though their tasks are humble, they are still important, and without their labors, the practices of faith would grind to a halt.

In the Three Worlds campaign, an adherent must select one of the Lords of Heaven or Lords of Hell as their patron. All adherents in the Three Worlds campaign must be devoted to a specific deity, church, or cult.

Players are unlikely to play adherents, who occupy the dullest levels of any religion, and are most useful as an information source for adventuring parties. Every religious institution that can support more than a handful of clerics will have a staff of adherents, and most churches will have a full retinue. Adherents can also act as holy advisors when clerics are unavailable, as experts in their fields who are often ignored by their own organizations.

Note that in the Three Worlds campaign, player characters may not be evil, and as a result are prohibited from being adherents devoted to most of the Lords of Hell.

Abilities: Wisdom determines how powerful a spell an adherent can cast, how many spells he can cast per day, and how hard those spells are to resist.
Alignment: An adherent’s alignment must be within one step of his deity’s (that is, it may be one step away on either the lawful-chaotic axis or the good-evil axis, but not both). A cleric may not be neutral unless his deity’s alignment is also neutral.
Hit Die: d4.
Luck Die: d2.

Class Skills
  • Skill List: The adherent's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Concentration (Con), Craft: Any (all skills taken individually) (Int), Decipher Script (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Forgery (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge: Any Two (taken individually) (Int), Profession: Any (all skills taken individually) (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), Spot (Wis), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
  • Note: Because the Three Worlds campaign uses the Skills by Character house rule, the list of class skills given here is only included for the sake of completeness, and is not used by characters in the campaign setting.
  • Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Intelligence modifier) x4.
  • Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Intelligence modifier.
Class Features
All of the following are the class features of the adherent:
  • Base Attack Bonus: Average. An adherent gains +¾ base attack bonus per class level.

  • Base Fortitude Save Bonus: Good. An adherent gains a +2½ base Fortitude save bonus at first level, and an additional +½ base Fortitude save bonus per class level.

  • Base Reflex Save Bonus: Poor. An adherent gains a +⅓ base Reflex save bonus per class level.

  • Base Will Save Bonus: Good. An adherent gains a +2½ base Will save bonus at first level, and an additional +½ base Will save bonus per class level.

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Adherents are proficient with one simple weapon. Adherents are not proficient with any armor or shields.

  • Spells: An adherent casts divine spells, which are drawn from the cleric/favored soul spell list. However, his alignment may restrict him from casting certain spells opposed to his moral or ethical beliefs; see Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells. An adherent must choose and prepare his spells in advance. To prepare or cast a spell, an adherent must have a Wisdom score equal to at least 10 + the spell level. The Difficulty Class for a saving throw against an adherent’s spell is 10 + the spell level + the adherent’s Wisdom modifier. Like other spellcasters, an adherent can cast only a certain number of spells of each spell level per day. His base daily spell allotment is given on the table below. In addition, he receives bonus spells per day if he has a high Wisdom score. An adherent also gets one domain spell of each spell level he can cast, starting at 1st level. At some levels, an adherent has access to a domain spell of a given level, but no others. These levels are marked as "0 + 1" on the adherent's spell table. When an adherent prepares a spell in a domain spell slot, it must come from his chosen domain. Adherents meditate or pray for their spells. Each adherent must choose a time at which he must spend 1 hour each day in quiet contemplation or supplication to regain his daily allotment of spells. Time spent resting has no effect on whether an adherent can prepare spells. An adherent may prepare and cast any spell on the cleric/favored soul spell list, provided that he can cast spells of that level, but he must choose which spells to prepare during his daily meditation.

  • Deity, Domains, and Domain Spells: An adherent’s deity influences his alignment, what magic he can perform, his values, and how others see him. An adherent chooses a single domain from among those belonging to his deity, as found on the list of cleric domains. An adherent can select an alignment domain (Chaos, Evil, Good, or Law) only if his alignment matches that domain. The domain gives the adherent access to a domain spell at each spell level he can cast, from 1st on up, as well as a granted power. The adherent gets the granted power of the domain selected. If a domain spell is not on the cleric/favored soul spell list, an adherent can prepare it only in his domain spell slot.

Adherent
Spells per Day
Level
Special
0th1st2nd3rd4th5th6th7th8th9th
1st
Spells
3
0+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
2nd
-
4
1+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
3rd
-
4
2+1
0+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
4th
-
5
2+1
1+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
5th
-
5
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
6th
-
5
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
-
-
-
-
-
7th
-
6
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
-
-
-
-
8th
-
6
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
-
-
-
-
9th
-
6
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
-
-
-
10th
-
6
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
-
-
-
11th
-
6
4+1
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
-
-
12th
-
6
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
-
-
13th
-
6
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
-
14th
-
6
5+1
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
-
15th
-
6
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
-
16th
-
6
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
-
17th
-
6
5+1
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
0+1
18th
-
6
5+1
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
1+1
19th
-
6
5+1
5+1
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
3+1
2+1
20th
-
6
5+1
5+1
5+1
5+1
4+1
4+1
4+1
3+1
2+1
In addition to the stated number of spells per day for 1st through 9th-level spells, an adherent cleric gets a domain spell for each spell level, starting at 1st. The "+1" in the entries on this table represents that spell. Domain spells are in addition to any bonus spells the adherent may receive for having a high Wisdom score.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Campaign Design - Prestige Class: Incantantrix

Incantantrix (from the Player's Guide to Færûn)

The incantatrixes are the practitioners of metamagic in the Three Worlds, studying spells that affect other spells and having a fondness for magic that thwarts extraplanar beings.

Hit Die: d4.
Luck Die: d2.

Requirements
To become an incantantrix, one must meet the following criteria:
  • Skills: Concentration 4+ ranks, Knowledge: Arcana 8+ ranks, Spellcraft 8+ ranks.
  • Feats: Iron Will and any one metamagic feat.
  • Spellcasting: Able to cast 3rd-level arcane spells.
  • Special: Cannot have abjuration as a prohibited school.
Class Skills
  • The incantantrix's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Concentration (Con), Craft: Any (Int), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge: Arcana (Int), Knowledge: the Planes (Int), Profession: Any (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).
  • Note: Because the Three Worlds campaign uses the Skills by Character house rule, the list of class skills given here is only included for the sake of completeness, and is not used by characters in the campaign setting.
  • Skill Points at each level: 2 + Intelligence modifier.
Class Features
All of the following are class features of the incantantrix prestige class.
  • Base Attack Bonus: Poor. An incantantrix gains +½ base attack bonus per class level.

  • Base Fortitude Save Bonus: Poor. An incantantrix gains a +13 base Fortitude save bonus per class level.

  • Base Reflex Save Bonus: Poor. An incantantrix gains +13 base Reflex save bonus per class level.

  • Base Will Save Bonus: Good. An incantantrix gains +½ base Will save bonus per class level.

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: Incantatrixes gain no proficiency with any weapon, armor, or shield. Armor check penalties for armor heavier than leather apply to the skills Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Hide, Jump, Move Silently, Sleight of Hand, and Tumble, and double the normal armor check penalty applies to Swim checks.

  • Spells: When a new incantatrix level is gained, the character gains new spells per day (and spells known, if applicable) as if she had also gained a level in whatever arcane spellcasting class granted her access to 3rd-level arcane spells before she added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit a character of that class would have gained (bonus metamagic or item creation feats, bard or assassin abilities, and so on), except for an increased effective level of spellcasting. This essentially means that she adds the level of incantatrix to the level of whatever other arcane spellcasting class granted her access to 3rd-level arcane spells, then determines spells per day, spells known, and caster level accordingly.

    If a character had more than one arcane spellcasting class that granted access to 3rd-level arcane spells before she became an incantatrix, she must decide to which class she adds each level of incantatrix for the purpose of determining spells per day and spells known.

  • Bonus Metamagic Feat: At 1st level, and again at 4th, 7th, and 10th level, the incantatrix may select any metamagic feat as a bonus feat. She must meet any prerequisites for a feat in order to select it..

  • Focused Studies (Ex): At 1st level, the incantatrix gives up a school of magic so as to focus more on the remaining schools. She must choose a school of magic other than abjuration or divination as a prohibited school. This prohibited school is in addition to any others already chosen due to school specialization. Thus, a specialized wizard taking this prestige class has three prohibited schools instead of two.

  • Cooperative Metamagic (Su): At 2nd level, an incantatrix gains the ability to apply any metamagic feat she possesses (except Silent Spell, Still Spell, or Quicken Spell) to a spell being cast by a willing allied spellcaster. The caster need not prepare the spell in metamagic form or in a higher-level spell slot; the incantatrix simply modifies the spell during the casting. Using this ability is a standard action that provokes an attack of opportunity, just like casting a spell, though the incantatrix can use the Concentration skill with this ability as though she were casting defensively. The incantatrix must ready an action to use cooperative metamagic when her ally begins casting and must be adjacent to the caster. The incantatrix must make a Spellcraft check (DC 18 + [3 x modified spell level]) to succeed. "Modified spell level" is the level of the spell slot that the spell would occupy if it were prepared with the metamagic feat applied. Any spell level increases from metamagic feats that the caster applied also count toward the modified spell level. For example, if an incantatrix applies the Maximize Spell feat to an ally's chain lightning spell, the modified spell level is 9th (6th for the spell, +3 for the Maximize Spell feat), and the DC is 18 + (3 x 9) = 45. If she applies the same feat to an ally's silent chain lightning spell, the modified spell level is 10th and the Spellcraft DC is 48. An incantatrix can use this ability a number of times per day equal to (3 + her Intelligence modifier).

  • Metamagic Effect (Su): At 3rd level, an incantatrix can attempt to apply a metamagic feat she possesses to a persistent spell effect that is already in place. For example, she could use Extend Spell to extend the duration of a wall of force or Maximize Spell to maximize the damage dealt by a cloudkill. To use this ability, the incantatrix must be adjacent to or within the spell effect and make a successful Spellcraft check (DC 18 + [3 x modified spell level]. "Modified spell level" is the level of the spell slot that the spell would occupy if it were prepared with the metamagic feat applied. Spell slot increases for metamagic feats that were applied to affect the spell's casting (such as Still Spell, Silent Spell, or Quicken Spell) do not count toward the modified spell level, but adjustments for metamagic that change the spell's effect (such as Empower Spell, Enlarge Spell, or Widen Spell) do count.

    For example, applying the Extend Spell feat to a wall of fire gives it a modified spell level of 5th (4th for the spell +1 for the Extend Spell feat), so the DC would be 18 + (3 x 5) = 33. If the wall of fire had been cast with the Silent Spell feat applied, the DC is still 33, since that feat applies to the spell's casting, not its effect. On the other hand, extending an empowered wall of fire would give it a modified spell level of 7th and a Spellcraft DC of 39.

    An incantatrix can use this ability a number of times per day equal to (3 + her Intelligence modifier). Using this ability is a full-round action that provokes attacks of opportunity.

  • Metamagic Spell Trigger (Su): At 5th level, an incantatrix gains the ability to apply a metamagic feat she possesses to the effect of a spell trigger item (generally a wand). To use this ability, she must have the appropriate item creation feat to make the spell trigger item she is using. Using metamagic spell trigger expends a number of additional charges from the item equal to the number of effective spell levels the metamagic feat would add to a spell. For example, an incantatrix can use Quicken Spell to modify a spell cast from a wand by spending 5 charges (1 + 4 additional charges for the spell slot increase). Alternatively, she can apply Empower Spell to the effect by spending 3 charges, or trigger it silently by spending 2 charges. The Still Spell feat confers no benefit when applied to a spell trigger item.

    An incantatrix cannot use this ability when using a spell trigger item that does not have charges, such as a strand of prayer beads.

  • Seize Concentration (Su): At 6th level, an incantatrix gains the ability to wrest control of a spell that requires concentration (such as implosion, major image, or summon swarm) from another spellcaster within 30 feet. If the target spellcaster is willing, this transfer of concentration occurs automatically. Otherwise, the incantatrix and the target spellcaster make an opposed caster level check. A divine spellcaster receives a +2 bonus on this check. If the incantatrix wins, she gains control of the spell for as long as she maintains concentration or until the original spell duration expires. The spell functions as though the incantatrix were the caster (even if it is a spell she cannot cast), except that any variables determined when the spell was cast (including its caster level) remain as determined by the original caster. The original spellcaster can be affected by his own spell, though he receives a +2 circumstance bonus on any saving throw allowed against it. If the incantatrix allows her concentration to lapse before the spell duration expires, the original caster may reassert control over his spell by making a successful caster level check (DC 15 + spell level). If he fails to do so, no one controls the spell.

  • Instant Metamagic (Su): Once per day, a 7th-level or higher incantatrix can apply a single metamagic feat she possesses to a spell without preparing it that way beforehand (if she prepares spells) or increasing its casting time (if she does not prepare spells). Thus, a wizard's prepared spell works as if she had prepared it with the metamagic feat, but it does not use a higher-level spell slot. A sorcerer or bard's spell is cast without adjusting its casting time, but it works as if he had cast it with the metamagic feat. A 9th-level incantatrix can use this power twice per day. The incantatrix cannot use this ability if the metamagicked spell would normally use a spell slot of a higher level than she can cast.

  • Snatch Spell (Su): At 8th level, an incantatrix can attempt to seize control over a persistent effect created by another spellcaster. The effect must be one that does not depend on concentration but still relies on or responds to the caster's control (such as a summon monster spell or spiritual weapon, but not a wall of fire or acid fog). Furthermore, the effect (but not necessarily the spellcaster) must be within 30 feet of the incantatrix. The target spellcaster and the incantatrix make an opposed caster level check. A divine spellcaster receives a +2 bonus on this check. If the incantatrix wins, she gains control of the spell until its original duration expires. The spell functions as though the incantatrix had cast it, except that any variables determined when the spell was cast (including its caster level) remain as determined by the caster. The original caster can be affected by his own spell, though he receives a +2 circumstance bonus on any saving throw allowed against it. If the spell is dismissible and the incantatrix wishes to dismiss it, she must make a second successful opposed caster level check to do so. If she fails, the spell remains in effect and control reverts to the original caster.

  • Improved Metamagic (Su): At 10th level, an incantatrix has mastered metamagic to such an extent that whenever she uses a metamagic feat, the required increase in spell level (if any) is reduced by one (minimum +1 spell level). For example, a wizard incantatrix could prepare a quickened fireball as a 6th-level spell instead of a 7th-level spell.

    This benefit also applies to the incantatrix's other class abilities. Thus, the DC for using her metamagic effect or cooperative metamagic ability is reduced appropriately for the metamagic feats involved, and she spends fewer charges when using metamagic spell trigger.
Incantantrix
LevelSpecialSpells per Day
1stBonus Metamagic Feat, Focused Studies+1 level of existing arcane spellcating class
2ndCooperative Metamagic+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
3rdMetamagic Effect+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
4thBonus Metamagic Feat+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
5thMetamagic Spell Trigger+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
6thSeize Concentration+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
7thBonus Metamagic Feat, Instant Metamagic (once per day)+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
8thSnatch Spell+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
9thInstant Metamagic (twice per day)+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class
10thBonus Metamagic Feat, Improved Metamagic+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Third Imperium - Twilight and the Long Night

Twilight and the Long Night

Historians generally acknowledge the beginning of the Twilight of the Second Imperium as starting with the monetary crisis of -1776 Imperial. When the Imperial Treasury on Hub refused to acknowledge the monetary issue made by the branch treasury at Antares, shockwaves of fiscal doubt spread throughout the empire. As with all large interstellar polities, the lifeblood of the Second Imperium was interstellar trade, and once it became unclear that the currency issued by one part of the Imperium would be recognized in another, commerce began its inexorable grind to a halt.

Though the damage began almost immediately, the Second Imperium was a vast and resilient polity, and took two and a half centuries to completely collapse - its death throes are generally recognized as ending in -1526 Imperial when the last remnant state claiming to be the Rule of Man splintered and broke apart. This period of Twilight was followed by a fifteen hundred year period of chaos commonly referred to as the Long Night, which only ended when Cleon transformed the Sylean Federation into the Third Imperium and declared himself Emperor in the year 0.

During the Long Night, interstellar trade was reduced to trickle in most regions of the former empire. Remnant states arose in some places, while in other regions some systems were cut off from galactic society by stellar geography or mere neglect. Many planets, lacking regular shipments of Imperial products, regressed technologically, descending into pre-industrial societies. Others, deprived of essential commodities and unable to meet their needs with domestic production, simply died off. Where interstellar travel was still possible, successor states that came into contact with one another began warring as often as they began trading. Miniature empires rose, prospered, and fell throughout the Long Night, and in many cases, surviving records are fragmentary or entirely missing. One of the great endeavors of academia in the Third Imperium is unearthing and understanding information about this period.

Despite the chaos and uncertainty of the Long Night, it was also a period of growth and expansion for humanity. Unfettered by the cumbersome bureaucracy of the First Imperium and the military rule of the Second Imperium, humanity expanded far beyond its former borders. Solomani made contact with the Darrian strain of humaniti - and after receiving the jump drive from Solomani traders, the Darrians achieved (and lost) technological capabilities as yet unmatched in human history, including the infamous Star Trigger. Humaniti made contact with the K'kree, and established stronger relations with the Aslan. In addition, while the areas formerly occupied by the Imperium had descended into chaos, other regions of the galaxy had not. The Zhodani Consulate never experienced the Long Night and grew to its present size during that era. The Vargr and Aslan experienced some of the greatest surges of expansion in the racial histories. In the case of the Aslan, their push into human held regions of space resulted in the first in a series of border wars that spanned nearly fourteen hundred years and didn't end until the nascent Third Imperium finally organized resistance to the incursions.

The ending of the Long Night was set into motion with the founding of the Sylean Federation, an interstellar state founded in the Sylea system in what is now the Core Sector in -650 Imperial. The Federation had a tightly controlled, highly centralized government, and thus it too nearly six centuries to grow, mostly by using its dominant trading position to draw several surrounding systems into itself. The typical Sylean method of expansion was to establish a trading relationship with another system, arrange for their trading partner to become dependent upon Sylean goods, and then use that dominant position to force the system to agree to join the Federation. In -30 Imperial, Cleon Zhunastu took control of the industrial consortium that was the real power in the Federation and set about expanding its borders. Over thirty years of flexing Sylea's economic, diplomatic, and military might, Cleon had vastly increased the size of the Federation, extending it to encompass nearly all of what is now the Core Sector.

Cleon envisioned a dominion that extended well beyond a single sector, and realized that the heavily centralized Sylean government was not suited to such a task. Through intense political maneuvering, Cleon's allies convinced the Grand Senate of the Federation to propose that the Imperium be revived and that Cleon should be crowned the first Emperor of the Third Imperium. This claim was made plausible due to the fact that one of the last claimants to the throne of the Rule of Man during the Twilight years had used Sylea as his capital. Thus, Cleon was able to trace the legitimacy of the Sylean Federation itself through this petty emperor to the Rule of Man, and consequently to the original Vilani Empire. In a somewhat perverse way, the primary proponents of the legitimacy of the Ramshackle Empire as the legitimate heir to the First Imperium are the Emperors of the Third Imperium, as their claim to rulership is based upon that connection.

Given that Cleon had instigated the political maneuvering that led to him being offered the crown, Cleon, of course, accepted immediately. 651 years after the Sylean Federation had been founded, it was dissolved. Cleon declared that the year of his ascension to the Imperial Throne to be a Holiday Year to mark his coronation, proclaiming it to be Year Zero of a new calendar. Though most of the galaxy didn't know it yet, the Long Night had ended, and the Third Imperium had begun.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

Third Imperium - Second Imperium: The Rule of Man

Second Imperium: The Rule of Man

The humans from Terra were still balkanized when they discovered Jump drive and began colonizing their solar system in 2058 A.D. Because of the dearth of nearby stars, the Solomani were confined to their own solar system for the next four decades despite having the Jump drive. During this time period, the Terrans developed an extensive variety of jump-capable ships that were tested by years of use before they were able to make the leap to another star. It wasn't until 2094 A.D. that they were able to mount an expedition to Barnard's Star, and it wasn't until 2096 A.D. that the Terrans encountered the Vilani in that system.

The discovery that they were not only not alone in the universe but that the aliens they discovered were also human sent shockwaves through Terran society. The stories the Terrans heard of the Imperium's size staggered them. The fact that most worlds more than a few parsecs away from Terra were already claimed and inhabited was a source of consternation. Even so, joint international expeditions met with Vilani representatives and explored nearby star systems. In 2110 A.D., the Terrans launched an effort to colonize Barnard's Star even though Vilani prospectors were already working on the system's primary planet. This rush to colonization almost inevitably led to conflict between the upstart Terrans and the Imperials.

Things came to a head in 2113 A.D. (-2405 Imperial) when a caravan of Vilani vessels ignored Terran traffic signals, resulting in a confrontation that became the spark that ignited the First Interstellar War. Although this resulted in what was ostensibly a Terran victory in 2121 A.D., the Imperium didn't even really know it had been in a war. Because of the Imperial Bureaux system devolved so much responsibility for managing local affairs downward to provincial governors, the first war was fought with only the resources available in the region. Because being unable to handle such matters without help from the Imperial throne was seen as a failure for a provincial governor, resulting in a loss of prestige and personal power, there was significant reluctance on the part of the Vilani provincial authorities to seek help from the central authority.

On the Terran side, the war, although a victory, exposed command and control issues resulting from having fractured forces drawn from multiple nations. After much negotiation, in 2122 A.D. most of the nations of Terra signed the Treaty of New York, placing their space-faring forces under the centralized control of an empowered United Nations. In 2123 A.D., most of the off-world colonies were invited to join the compact, and by 2130 the organization was formalized as the Terran Confederation, placing all Solomani possessions under a single governmental authority.

Over the next one hundred and eighty years, the Terran Confederation and the First Imperium fought a series of wars, although the exact number is subject of some debate among historians. Due to the slowness of interstellar communication, no consensus can be reached as to when the later conflicts began or ended due to the array of armistices, ceasefires, and relatively rare periods of peace. In many cases, conflict would begin in one region before news of a peace accommodation could reach the local area or the respective capitals, sparking a new conflict. Although most scholars generally count seven interstellar conflicts between the Terrans and the Vilani following the first, there is much disagreement as to when each one began or ended, and some scholar maintain that there more or fewer wars than this number. As a general matter, academics have mostly agreed to simply refer to the wars between the Terran Confederation and the First Imperium as the "Nth Interstellar War", with proper accounting requiring that the specific dates of the war being discussed to be defined by the speaker.

The Second through Seventh Interstellar Wars were back and forth affairs, mostly confined to the Dingir and Sol subsectors, fought between the Terran Confederation and the Vilani provincial authority. It was not until the Solomani seized Dingir itself in the Eighth Interstellar War that the Vilani Emperor took notice and dispatched a sizeable fleet to the theater of operations. Unfortunately, by then the Terrans has developed the Jump-3, which gave them a strategic advantage so great that they were able to crush the Imperial forces, forcing them to relinquish control of the Solomani Rim. From that point on, the Terrans were on the offensive. The Treaty of of Ensular, signed in 2299 A.D., ended the war with the Vilani ceding all territory rimward of Vega to the Terrans.

Primed by centuries of decline, corruption, and decay, the Vilani Empire collapsed almost immediately after this defeat. The Terrans, emboldened by their victory, fell upon the former territories of the disintegrating empire like wolves, with the Terran Confederation setting out to swallow an opponent hundreds of times larger than itself. The entire Terran officer corps, more than one hundred thousand strong, was dispatched to the former Imperial domains, but even that was not enough. Junior officers found themselves thrust into positions of authority far exceeding anything they were prepared for: Ensigns found themselves commanding entire space stations, lieutenants found themselves acting as planetary governors, commanders were placed in charge of entire subsectors. The Vilani Empire had been vast and unwieldy even with the massive Imperial bureaucracy, and the Terran Confederation simply didn't have the manpower to effectively assume control of it. For fifteen years, the Terran forces tried to impose military rule upon the remnants of the First Imperium.

In 2317, the Terran Secretariat voted to transfer control of the conquered territories directly to Terra, a move that would have wrecked havoc across the former dominions of the Imperium. Admiral Hiroshi Estigarriba, commander of the Terran Navy, realized the cost such a transfer would impose, and moved to install himself as regent of the Vilani Empire and protector of Terra. The personal loyalty the officer corps held towards Estigarriba smoothed the way for this takeover, as did the fact that the Terran forces had integrated Vilani military assets into their own ranks. The Terran fleet headquarters at Dingir became the capital of the new Imperium, but the administrative hub remained on Vland. The Terran Confederation was simply dissolved.

What might have been a temporary situation was transformed into a permanent shift when Estigarriba died and his chief of staff succeeded him, crowning himself Emperor Hiroshi II. For the next five hundred years or so, the combined Solomani-Vilani Empire dominated interstellar politics. This period, known either as the Rule of Man or the Ramshackle Empire, depending on how the speaker feels about this period, is officially referred to as the Second Imperium. Hiroshi II transferred the government from Dingir and Vland to a centrally located world named Hub by the Terrans and Ershur by the Vilani, and the capital remained there for the next four centuries.

Depending on who one asks, the Second Imperium was either a period of innovation and progress following the stagnation of the First Imperium, or a time of chaos and growing instability. Solomani migrated from the Terran dominions and spread throughout the new empire, brining with them their ambition and exuberance. The rigid Vilani caste system was swept away by the new regime, opening the way for a newly dynamic society to emerge, but also creating an uncertainty alien to the denizens of the First Imperium. The Terrans swept aside the old system, unleashing an era of invention and devlopment, but weren't able to come up with a replacement that allowed them to effectively manage such a vast domain.The First Imperiums caste system and heavy economic control had been cumbersome and employed a bloated bureuacracy, but the system of military rule employed by the Second Imperium wasn't any more effective, and in the end it proved to be just as brittle.

In -1776 Imperial or 2742 A.D., the Second Imperium faced a financial crisis that marked the beginning of the end for the regime. The treasury at Hub refused to honor a monetary issue from the Imperial treasury at Antares, resulting in a monetary crisis that shattered the confidence in interstellar trade and effective governmental power. Though the Rule of Man limped on in some form or another for the next two and a half centuries, the writing was on the wall: Eventual collapse was inevitable. The Twilight had begun.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Third Imperium - A Brief Overview of GURPS

A Brief Overview of GURPS

GURPS is the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, currently in its fourth edition. This page is intended as an overview of the system, although it is a decidedly incomplete guide.

GURPS is a skill-based system that uses a non-random point-based method for character generation. The fundamental game mechanic is "roll 3d6 and try to get a result under your skill". When making a skill check, a roll of 3 or 4 is always a success, and a roll of a 17 or 18 is always a failure. This is basically about 90% of the game system. The rest is pretty much details and tracking how each character's particular skills are determined.

Because GURPS is skill-based rather than level-based, characters don't level-up as they gain experience and wisdom. Instead, characters are usually rewarded with character points - the GM guidance recommends between 1 and 5 points per session, with an average of two or three per session. Points can be spent to improve abilities, buy some advantages, buy off disadvantages, improve skills, or gain wealth, at the player's option. Awarded points can be spent as they are handed out, or "saved" so the character can make a big point buy at a later date. Characters can instead be rewarded with gained advantages determined by the GM - such as gaining a new patron or ally, or obtaining military rank or social status.

Character Creation

Characters are built using a point buy system. Basic attributes, advantages, disadvantages, quirks, and skills all have a point value and making a character consists of deciding what the player wants to spend their available points on. The standard campaign (which I will use for my Third Imperium campaign) gives each player 100 points to build their character and permits them to take 40 points of disadvantages and 5 points of quirks. Disadvantages and quirks cost negative points, which the character can then use to purchase additional abilities. In effect, a standard character is a 145-point character who uses 45 points of disadvantages and quirks to bring their total value down to the 100 point limit.

Because it is a skill-based system, characters do not have character classes or other limitations. Almost any combination of attributes, advantages, disadvantages, and skills is possible, although there are some attributes that might be limited to certain races, or might be limited due to cultural or legal requirements. In extreme cases, very unusual characters may have to take the "Unusual Background" advantage at some point level as determined by the GM. Although there are no character classes, the rule books include a variety of "character templates" providing suggested distributions of points for certain character archetypes.

Basic Attributes

Characters have four basic attributes. The baseline for all four stats is 10, which is the starting value for a normal human character. Players can spend points to raise stats, or gain points by reducing stats. As a general rule of thumb, an attribute of 6 or lower would be considered a crippling disadvantage, and an attribute of 15 or higher would be considered amazing. The basic attributes are:
  • Strength (ST): Strength is a character's physical prowess and bulk. It determines how much a character can lift, how much they can carry, how much damage they do in unarmed combat or with weapons like swords and axes, and how much damage they can take.

  • Dexterity (DX): Dexterity is a combination of agility, coordination, and fine motor skill. It is the key attribute for most athletic, combat, crafting, and other skills involving physical activity. Dexterity also goes into determining a character's Basic Speed and Basic Move.

  • Intelligence (IQ): Intelligence measures a character's brainpower, broadly including creativity, perception, intuition, memory, and other mental abilities. It is the key ability for science, engineering, social interaction, and any other skill involving mental capability. In campaigns that use magic, it is the key ability for magic skills. Intelligence also determines a character's Will and Perception.

  • Health (HT): Health represents a character's stamina, resilience, resistance to poisons, diseases, and other ill-effects. Health determines a character's Fatigue, and goes into calculating their Basic Move and Basic Speed.
Secondary Characteristics

Secondary characteristics are a set of derived states that all characters possess. They all use one or more of the basic stats to calculate them. One can raise or lower many of these secondary attributes by spending points to increase them, or by gaining negative points to lower them. So, for example, if you wanted to play a low-IQ character with exceptionally string Will, one could purchase ranks of Will by spending points to do so. As a general rule of thumb, raising or lowering a secondary characteristic costs (or grants) fewer points than raising or lowering the basic stat it is derived from. The secondary characteristics are:
  • Damage: This is based on a character's ST, and comes in two flavors - thrusting damage, which measures the damage the character does with a punch, kick, or rapier, and swinging damage, which measures the damage the character does with a swinging weapon like an axe or club. For example, a ST 10 character does 1d6-2 thrusting damage, so if they punched someone and connected, they would roll 1d6 and subtract 2 for their damage. If that same character was using a spear, which has listed damage of "thrust+2", then the character would roll 1d6 on a successful hit.

  • Basic Lift: This is based on ST and measures how much weight a character can lift over their head with one hand in one second. This value is used to determine how much a character can carry before becoming encumbered. The basic lift for a human with ST 10 is 20 pounds.

  • Hit Points: This is based on ST and represents how much damage a character can take before becoming unconscious or dying. Effectively, a character has as many hit points as their ST score.

  • Will: Will is based on IQ and represents a character's ability to resist mental stress including fear, hypnotism, seduction, torture, and so on. In the Traveller setting, it is important to note that Will is used to resist psionic influence. In a fantasy setting, Will is used to resist some magical effects.

  • Perception: Perception is based on IQ and represents a character's general alertness.

  • Fatigue Points: Fatigue Points are based on HT, and represents a character's "energy supply". A character expends Fatigue points when they engage in strenuous activity. Disease, heat, hunger, and other similar issues can sap a character's Fatigue Points as well. Losing Fatigue Points can slow a character down or cause them to fall unconscious. In extreme cases, loss of Fatigue Points can result in death from overexertion.

  • Basic Speed: Basic Speed is determined by a combination of a character's DX and HT, and measures a character's reflexes and physical quickness. Initiative in combat is based on a character's Basic Speed, as is a character's ability to dodge attacks.

  • Basic Move: Basic Move is based upon a character's Basic Speed and represents how many yards a character can move in one second. Encumbrance can modify a character's Move.
There are a few other derived attributes, mostly a character's height and weight, which are based on ST, but those don't affect gameplay much. These can be modified with advantages or disadvantages. In a science fiction game like Traveller, a character's home gravity can also matter, but that mostly affects how many points a character needs to put into ST to be "average".

Advantages

Advantages are benefits a character can buy that are not either increases to their base abilities or skills. Advantages can cover an extraordinarily wide range of abilities, ranging from physical appearance, to social status, wealth, military rank, administrative rank, or even allies, contacts, or patrons as well as more esoteric benefits like Absolute Timing, Alternate Identities, or Danger Sense. Effectively, anything that has the potential to help a character out as they make their way through the world is classified as an advantage. Advantages all have an associated point cost, ranging from zero to as high as the benefit warrants.

There are a whole host of advantages - such as Brachiator or Constriction Attack - that are generally only available as racial advantages. In a science fiction setting, however, it is possible that bio-engineering or cybernetic enhancements could provide such enhancements. Within the Imperium, there is a social stigma against cybernetic implants or other body modifications made for purposes other than to replace but not augment missing body parts, and these are generally not commercially available. That said, most advanced societies within the Third Imperium have the capability to make such devices, and may do so covertly for a variety of reasons, most notably to enhance military or intelligence agency personnel.

Note that psionics exist in the Third Imperium setting, but require an Unusual Background and open use of such powers in many areas carries with it negative reaction modifiers from the social stigma against psionics in the Imperium.

It is possible, under certain circumstances, to acquire certain advantages during play. In those cases, the player would simply expend a number of accumulated points equal to the cost of the advantage and then add it to the character. Some advantages may require a character train to object them or (in extreme cases) undergo surgery or other body modifications. In some cases it is possible to acquire an advantage at a particular level and then later increase it. For example, the Ally advantage includes a frequency of appearance. If the player initially selected "quite rarely" for their Allies' frequency of appearance, they could later expend points and raise that to "fairly often", meaning the Ally would show up to help the character more often. As a good rule of thumb, a character who wishes to acquire a new advantage during play should consult with the GM first.

Disadvantages

Disadvantages are the flip-side of advantages. Where advantages cost points, disadvantages "cost" negative points, reducing the point total of a character. Where advantages represent benefits that can aid a character as they make their way through the world, disadvantages represent hindrances that limit a character. Some things can be either advantages or disadvantages - high social status, for example, is an advantage, while low social status could be a disadvantage. Other things, such as Clueless, Colorblindness, or Combat Paralysis, are simply disadvantages. A disadvantage doesn't have to be a negative trait for a character, just one that limits what a character can do. Honesty or a Code of Honor is a disadvantage because it limits what a character is willing to do. A dependent is a disadvantage, because the character is required to spend time and effort to take care of them, while an enemy is a disadvantage because they might show up an inopportune time to cause trouble for the character.

In general, disadvantages are things that give characters flavor and make them interesting. Perfect heroes get dull, and heroes that have flaws or limitations make for fun role-playing. Players should endeavor to play their disadvantages when they are applicable and not try to evade them. So, a character who has a Code of Honor against killing shouldn't try to figure out ways to kill his foes by accident, but rather should role-play that character's refusal to kill their foes. In extreme cases, it would be appropriate for a character to penalize a player who consistently refuses to play his character's disadvantages - either by limiting the rewards that character gets for adventuring, or by requiring the player "buy off" the disadvantage. by spending points.

Players can voluntarily "buy-off" disadvantages during play using a similar process to that used for buying advantages. The player expends a number of accumulated points equal to the disadvantage and then discards the disadvantage. Just as with advantages, if a character has a disadvantage that has "levels", they can partially buy off a disadvantage, reducing the hindrance it causes. For example, if a character has the Enemy disadvantage and that enemy is specified to appear "quite often", the character could expend points and reduce the frequency to "fairly often", meaning the Enemy will show up more rarely. In many cases, a GM will require a character to fulfill some sort of in-campaign goal before they can buy off a particular disadvantage, so a player should consult with the GM if they want to do so.

Quirks

Quirks are minor character notes that give one negative point. They are not intended to be as debilitating as regular disadvantages, but are rather little habits or traits that a character has that impact how the player role-plays a character. A quirk might be a very minor version of a regular disadvantage - for example someone might have a quirk "never kills insects" which would be a minor version of the pacifism disadvantage. There are a variety of quirks suggested in the GURPS rulebooks, but the list of possible quirks is by no means limited to those. Almost anything that is a specific behavior, dislike, like, preference, or other attribute of a character that will affect how the player plays the character could count as a quirk. Some quirks, such as Alcohol Intolerance, Dreamer, or Nervous Stomach, can have mechanical game effects, but they are minor and likely come up only infrequently.

Just like disadvantages, quirks can be "bought off" by spending accumulated points to do so, although it is often recommended that players don't do this, because quirks are often a large part of what give characters their individual personalities.

Skills

Skills are things a character knows how to do. Basically, almost any kind of action a character could take that could be trained is represented by a skill. Skills are all connected to one of the four basic attributes, and a character's aptitude for that skill is heavily affected by their relevant ability score. This means that a character who has a high DX will be better at a DX-based skill than a character with a low DX, even if they both spend the same number of points on that skill.

One important concept in GURPS is "defaults". Many skills have defaults, which is what a character rolls against when they try to use a skill they have not studied. For example, a character with a DX of 10 who has no points invested in the Acrobatics skill can still attempt to make an Acrobatics roll at the default value, which is DX-6, or 4, meaning they would have to roll a 4 or lower on 3d6. Some skills have multiple defaults, such as the Interrogation skill, which defaults to IQ-5, Intimidation=5, or Psychology-4. In the event a character is trying to use a skill with multiple defaults, they use the best default value. Some skills have no defaults, such a Karate. For skills with no defaults, a character cannot use the skill unless they have spent points studying it.

Skills are rated as being Easy (such as Brawling), Average (such as Driving), Hard (such as Chemistry), or Very Hard (such as Computer Hacking), which affects how much benefit a character gains by spending points in those skills. Easy skills require relatively few points to raise to a high level, Very Hard skills require substantially more.

Some skills have prerequisites. Basically, this means that the character must have the prerequisite - usually a particular ability with another skill, but sometimes a particular advantage - in order to put points into that skill. For example, the skill Physics requires that a character spend points in Mathematics (Applied) at TL5+ first. In short, you cannot learn Physics unless you learn Applied Mathematics first.

Some IQ-based skills are defined as being for a particular tech level. So, for example, a character spending points on the Mechanic skill would need to define what tech level their skill applied to. The default is that it applies to the tech level the character is native to or in which they trained the skill. So, for example a character from the modern day (TL8) who trained in the Mechanic skill would be capable of using that skill with no penalty on a car from TL8. If they were called upon to make repairs to a car from World War II (TL7), they would suffer a -1 penalty to their mechanic skill when doing so. If they tried to work on a car from a TL9 society, they would suffer a -5 penalty. Greater variations between a the tech level a character learned a skill at and the subject of the skill, the greater the penalty.

Finally, some skills permit or require specialization. In these cases, the skill represents a range of endeavors, and the character may (and in some times must) choose a specialty within that skills. For example, the Driving skill has several specialties that a character must specialize in including Automobile, Construction Equipment, Hovercraft, and Motorcycle (among others). Basically, this sort of thing reflects the fact that the ability to drive a car doesn't really translate very well to being able to drive a bulldozer. Note that a character can put points into skills with specialties multiple times and learn multiple specializations. So a character might put points into Driving (Automobile) and also put points into Driving (Tracked), giving him the ability to drive both.

Skills can be raised (or learned) after character creation by spending the appropriate number of points required to raise them.

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Third Imperium - A Note About Races in GURPS and Races in GURPS: Traveller

Races in GURPS

Races in the GURPS game system are essentially fixed-cost point packages paid for during character creation. For the most part, they are an array of advantages and disadvantages that reflect the characteristics of that race. One generally cannot pick and choose which racial characteristics one wishes to have out of a racial package - one is either a member of the race, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that entails, or one is not. On a side note, there are some advantages and disadvantages that are usually only available as part of a racial package, although magic and extremely high-technology could conceivably change that.

Note that racial disadvantages do not count against a character's 40 point disadvantage limit for the purpose of character creation. In a similar manner, racial quirks do not count against the character's 5 point quirk limit. It should also be noted that some racial packages have very high point totals, and as a result may be difficult or even impossible to take when using a standard 100 point character build.

Races in GURPS: Traveller

As a general rule of thumb, all of the races found in the various GURPS: Traveller sourcebooks, including GURPS: Humaniti and all of the GURPS: Alien Races books, are available as character options in the Third Imperium. I will note that all of those sourcebooks are GURPS Third Edition books, and thus the point costs for those racial packages may be inaccurate for GURPS Fourth Edition. I am in the process of converting all the the racial templates to the more recent edition, but this is a time-consuming process and likely won't be completed for quite a while. Any player wishing to play a particular race that has not yet been converted should contact me and I will do the necessary conversion.

I will also point out that the area covered by the Third Imperium and its neighbors is huge. Space is vast, and between the various interstellar civilizations detailed in the setting, there are tens of thousands of inhabited star systems. Consequently, this means that there are likely a myriad of minor alien races that are not detailed in the official GURPS: Traveller sourcebooks. With some modification, races from GURPS: Aliens, GURPS: Uplift, or GURPS: Lensman could be fit into the GURPS: Traveller setting. It is plausible that a race from GURPS: Fantasy Folk or even GURPS: Myth could be modified to fit the setting as well, although that determination would have to be made on a case-by-case basis. If a player wishes to play a particular race from one of those sources, they should contact me and we can work together to place them into the setting and establish an appropriate point cost.

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Third Imperium - Major Race: Vargr

Vargr

The Vargr are a major race of intelligent humanoid beings who resemble anthropomorphic wolves. They are unique among major races, and indeed most sapient species, in that they were not the product of natural selections, but are rather the culmination of an experiment in artificial evolution by the Ancients.

Vargr were initially a puzzle for xenologist. The Vargr did not seem to "fit", having a biochemistry and genetic makeup distinct from most other native flora and fauna indigenous to Lair, their purported homeworld. This was not a new puzzle: Similar problems had confronted scientists studying the origins of the Vilani, Zhodani, and many human minor races collectively known as Humaniti. All of these enigmas were solved after contact with the Solomani, the humans from Earth. It was eventually discovered that the Vargr, like all the races of Humaniti, has a Terrestrial genetic origin.

Unlike Humaniti, the Vargr were not simply transplanted. During the early years of the Third Imperium, researchers concluded that they were the result of genetic manipulation of Terran carnivores of canine stock, probably wolves or proto-wolves. Archaeological data and other evidence suggests that the Ancients were responsible. Vargr retain many of the characteristics of their canine ancestors, to a greater degree than humans do with other primates. Also, some 300,000 years of natural adaptation took place, as the Vargr appear to have not been fully fitted to the environment of Lair, and this produced rigorous conditions which made natural selection essential to the survival of the race. Thus, the Vargr are in effect, products of both genetic engineering and some degree of evolution.

Although most Vargr live in the Vargr Extents, a region of slightly more than twenty-one sectors of space coreward of the Third Imperium situated between the Zhodani Consulate and the Two Thousand Worlds of the K'Kree, Vargr can be found throughout the galaxy, often as traders and corsairs, but also as citizens of every major government in the region. They can be found relatively often in the Third Imperium, with some having even having risen to the ranks of the nobility. They are also found as citizens of all of the other interstellar nations, although they are fairly rare in the Two Thousand Worlds due to the vegetarianism the K'kree require of all those who reside within their dominions. Within the Extents, there are believed to be more than 1,100 independent multi-world government, although many or only small clusters of a handful of worlds. Cataloging the various governments is almost an exercise in futility, as by the time one were to complete such a project, the swirling chaos of Vargr society would have swept many away, and replaced them with new governments.

Physiology

Vargr are upright bipeds who resemble a humanoid wolf with a bipedal posture and arms ending in hands instead of paws. Vargr legs are digitigrade - that is , they walk on their toes, their heel not touching the ground. Their bodies are covered with short fur, usually gray, brown, black, or rust colored, although a wider variety of patterns appear than in terrestrial wolves. Their fairly long tails end in a flaring brush. Their muzzle is shorter and less pronounced than a Terran canine, but still quite evident with strong jaws and sharp teeth. They have other characteristics consistent with terrestrial mammalian origin. Vargr biochemistry is terrestrial, making them closer cousins to Humaniti than any other non-Human species encountered off Terra.

A typical adult male Vargr stands five feet, four inches tall and weights approximately 135 pounds., while Vargr females are an inch or two shorter and five to ten pounds lighter. On average, Vargr aren't as strong as Humans, but their reaction speed is measurably faster, although there are vide variations among individuals.

Vargr hands are similar in shape and functionality to Human hands, though with significant internal differences. Vargr are normally able to use the same equipment without modification or additional practice. Their hands tend to be somewhat more slender and flexible than Humans, at least on the average, though there is considerable variation. Vargr fingers retain sharp pointed non-retractable nails useful as claws in close combat, although not as dangerous to an opponent as their teeth.

Vargr are built for sprinting: They can run approximately twice as fast as Humans for a short period. they tire more quickly and because of the fur that covers most of their body, they cannot col off by sweating; instead they pant. The combination of bipedal posture and digitigrade leg design means a Vargr cannot kick effectively.

Vargr eyesight is notably sharper than Human sight, but responds somewhat differently to color; to Humans, Vargr color patterns frequently seem excessively unusual, sometimes muddy, at other times garish and clashing. Vargr have a similar reaction to human color sense, finding it outlandish. A Vargr's hearing is excellent, but again slightly out of phase with that of humans. Sounds that are generally too high-pitched for human ears can be detected, but lower ranges are often vaguely sensed rather than heard. Though Vargr have keener noses than human, their sense of smells lack the acuity of their canine ancestors and they cannot match that of the K'kree.

Vargr voice boxes were modified to make them capable of speech, but their canine heritage is reflected in their extensive non-verbal body language. Tails, the movement of ears, and the state of their fur serve as an unconscious means of signaling a Vargr's emotional state to other Vargr (and to a lesser extent, to Humans, who have long racial experience with canines). Vargr speech is not quite the mixture of barks and howls that some make it out to be, but does have a strong echo of their canine ancestry. Vargr can and do howl, albeit not without the same intensity of a wolf (at least not without some practice and training). Some Vargr speech is often lost on humans, as some high notes are above their hearing threshold.

Psychology

Vargr retain a number of mental and behavioral traits that bean an obvious relationship to the instinctive behavior of the canines they were derived from. Vargr are still very much pack-oriented carnivores. The traits most other races find negative about the Vargr is a nature often characterized as inconsistent, chaotic, and impulsive. Vargr can seem intensely loyal to a cause and then suddenly shift allegiance. The rapid evolutions in Vargr politics and commerce are bewildering, and maps showing national boundaries are rarely accurate for more than a few decades.

Gregariousness

Vargr are a gregarious people, enjoying the company of one another and demanding the security and comfort of fellowship with others of their own kind. As a rule, Vargr enjoy living in close proximity with one another. At a family level, they tend toward extended families. Solitary confinement is a form of torture for most Vargr. They have less of a sense of privacy and personal modesty than Humans - at least within the pack.

Charisma and Dominance

Group behavior of Vargr is characterized by a constant struggle for dominance within the group. The ability to exert authority over others derives from an individual's prestige and force of personality. Vargr have many different words to describe this important characteristic, but Humans call it charisma.

A charismatic Vargr radiates confidence and ability in voice, manner, and posture, and other Vargr are naturally drawn to him. Charisma is also affected by events: defeat has a profound negative impact on an individual's bearing and conduct, signaling to others than he has failed. Vargr are constantly moving to the next challenge, and much Vargr behavior is based on a need to continually reaffirm their abilities, win the approval and support of others, and to prove, over and over, that they are worthy of the respect and admiration of their fellows.

Vargr with lower charisma are usually loyal followers. They are aware of their own lack of the qualities they see in charismatic leaders, and so attach themselves to a leader in the hopes that a little bit of his or her reflected glory will help them. A Vargr follower transfers his attentions from proving he is better than other Vargr to proving his group is better than other groups.

Racial Pride

Vargr possess a fierce personal pride. Vargr are easily insulted, which sometimes leads them into getting involved in conflicts without regard for the consequences. Vargr pride extends to their race: They do not like to be placed into a subordinate position compared to non-Vargr. Their unusual origin as an artificially uplifted species is a touchy subject. Some Vargr do not wish to discuss it. Others take pride in it, seeing themselves as the product of a successful attempt to develop a superior species. Some believe Vargr should be recognized as the natural successors to the Ancients.

Vargr Society
Vargr social organization is not easily comprehensible to outsiders. Analogies from history are prone to be easily misinterpreted. There are as many, if not more, distinct Vargr societies as there are Human ones. The key elements that characterize Vargr societies are strong emphasis on collective and informal lines of authority and and equally strong tendency to pack-tribe-nation loyalty.

Although gregarious, Vargr tend to be more cohesive on a small scale, in bands of small groups. A Vargr gives loyalty to a charismatic leader and follows that leader over the dictates of a higher authority if necessary. Vargr are always susceptible to the lyre of some other group if the charisma of its leader is superior. Vargr tend to place much more value in their group leader than in abstract or impersonal institutions such as "governments" and "nations". A common Vargr saying is "If I can smell my leader's confidence, I needn't fear."

Vargr have little use for concepts such as "title" or "rank" or 'chain of command", They respect an individual they can see, hear, and smell. Consequently, larger Vargr hierarchies tend to be groups of smaller bands welded together by a single Vargr leader who maintains close personal contact between his subordinates, each of whom has their own band of subordinates who they maintain a charismatic position over. These organizations can have as many layers as the various leaders are able to maintain. As one might expect, centralized authority is very tenuous at the higher levels of Vargr society.

Pack Dynamics

Small Vargr groups with shared purpose tend to be very cohesive. For pack-mates, "work" and "home" lives are rarely separated. Packs are often part of larger organizations, but in general the loyalty of such groups' component members will be greater toward their own immediate leader than toward the parent institution they are part of. Vargr who work together tend to establish an informal hierarchy of dominance, and when a new individual enters the group there will be tension as their position is sorted out as they are required to demonstrate their competence and secure their place within the group.

For all the backbiting that goes on within a pack, it will rapidly close ranks against an outsider who is seen as a threat. A Vargr joining a new pack must be careful that they don't mark themselves as a threat to the pack itself, which would result in their being reclassified as an enemy of the entire group.

Loyalties

For a Vargr most loyalties are temporary, but are still strong while they exist. A Vargr does their best for a group as long as they remain within it, but almost never has the intent of remaining within it forever, and other Vargr do not expect them to. Vargr often switch from one group to another, even to groups that are diametrically opposed to the goals or ideals of their previous group so long as the change improves the Vargr's own lot by enhancing their charisma and dominance.

A successful Vargr group does well, it's leader's charisma is enhanced, which will attract more members. The influx of low-status, low-charisma Vargr into a group will enhance its stability, because it means the status of existing members rises automatically, which means promotion no longer requires direct challenges of one's superiors. The equation "growth equals stability" is vital to Vargr organization, and is essential for understanding how Vargr society can actually succeed.

Ambitions of individual Vargr in a successful group are channeled toward doing better than others of equal rank in the hope of impressing their immediate leaders and obtaining promotion. A successful Vargr group is rewarded by more success until it reaches the natural limits of the enterprise - either the ability of its leadership to remain in close contact with their subordinates. When this happens, either new leadership takes over, or the group splinters as Vargr abandon it to seek out other opportunities.

Egalitarianism

Although Vargr groups emphasize dynamic leadership, Vargr societies tend to be essentially egalitarian: Static systems that lock individuals into hierarchies are foreign to Vargr thinking. The concept that even the lowest status Vargr can, with sufficient charisma, aspire to rule as a prince, is found in all Vargr cultures.

Vargr Racial Template [21 points]

Note that this template has been updated to reflect the point costs for GURPS Fourth Edition. In addition, while all the tendencies listed are racial tendencies, as with all species, there is considerable variation between individual Vargr. That said, varying too far from some of the "normal" Vargr characteristics may requires a character to take an unusual background. The information given here is an overview of Vargr sensibilities, society, government, and social mores. A considerably more detailed amount of information can be found in GURPS: Traveller - Alien Races 1. Those who wish to play a Vargr character should probably look through the material found in that volume.

Attributes

ST -1 [-10 points]; DX +1 [20 points]. Vargr are somewhat smaller than Humans, but have faster reflexes.

Advantages

Vargr are smaller than Humans, but have superior senses, faster reflexes and are better short-distance sprinters. They possess natural weapons (claws and teeth) and protection (fur).
  • Acute taste/smell +3 [6 points]

  • Acute vision +1 [2 points]

  • Claws (+2 damage) [15 points]

  • Enhanced Move 1 (doubles Move, with the limitation that running fatigue begins after 5 seconds -30%) [14 points]

  • Fur (DR 1, keeps warm) [5 points]

  • Teeth (1d-1 bite in close combat) [5 points]
Disadvantages
  • Cannot kick [-5 points]. Due to their digitigrade posture, Vargr cannot kick in close combat unless a foe is prone and the Vargr is standing, in which case they can stamp downward. This disadvantage's cost is set at -5 points, cancelling the point cost Vargr pay for having sharper than normal teeth.

  • Chummy [-5 points]. This is the famous Vargr gregariousness, a "pack mentality" that leaves them happiest when in groups they have come to find trustworthy, whether among Vargr or not.

  • Curious [-5 points]. Even more than Humans, a Vargr will go out of his way to investigate new things.

  • Easy to Read [-10 points]. Vargr find hiding their feelings an alien concept. Even if the Vargr doesn't say what he thinks, which he usually will, posture, facial expression, and ruffled fur are all easy for other Vargr to read. These cues are also fairly obvious to Humans, as Vargr are descended from canines and Humans have been reading their dogs' body language for millennia. The correlation is not total, but comes close enough.

  • Proud [-1 point]. Vargr are always concerned with their own status within any individual group, and that group's status in society. They are also quick to take offense at racial slights.

  • Reduced Fatigue (-1 fatigue) [-3 points]. Vargr are good sprinters, but lack the long-distance endurance of Humans.

  • Reduced Hit Points -1 [-2 points]. The lighter Vargr build results in the average Vargr having an HT of 10, but only nine hit points.

  • Reputation -2 [-10 points]. Vargr have a universal reputation as chaotic, easily swayed, and potentially disloyal.
Character Creation Notes

Common advantages for Vargr characters include Charisma, Status, and on occasion a Military Rank (most often for Vargr who serve as corsairs). Vargr also commonly have the disadvantages Impulsive or Paranoid.

Vargr characters almost never have the disadvantages Code of Honor (save for the Pirates' Code, which can reflect a cohesive Vargr pack), Fanaticism (to anything other than a high-charisma leader), Honesty, Sense of Duty (to any group larger than a pack or family group), Shyness, or Xenophobia. Any Vargr with one of these disadvantages would need to take an Unusual Background and describe just how they came by it.

Most of the character templates found in the GURPS: Traveller sourcebook are suitable for Vargr, as are the templates found in the Vargr chapter in GURPS: Traveller - Alien Races 1. I note, however, that the templates have not been updated to reflect the point costs for GURPS 4th Edition, and thus anyone who wishes to use them should consult with me and I will do the appropriate conversion. I intend to convert these templates as time permits, but there are a lot of them and it may take me a while to get to all of them.

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