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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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]
  • 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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