Mini-Setting: The Pan-Sentient Confederation (Part 2)
This is the second part of a short series of posts on the Pan Sentient Confederation, a system neutral “final frontier” mini-setting. The first post is here.
Please remember that this material was created in the 1990s for SRRT3 on the Genie online service with writing fiction in mind, so it probably goes into more (or less, in some cases) detail than needed for a tabletop RPG on some background material This writeup was produced by taking messages I posted on SFRT3, editing them slightly to correct typos (and probably to add different typos), and rearranging the posted material to be somewhat more organized. All of this material is copyright 1996 by Randall Stukey.
PSC Member Species
These are binary humanoids. Part machine and part humanoid life form they have the strength and endurance of a machine but lack the imagination and flexibility of a humanoid. Their individual computational skills are equal to any but the best supercomputers. Their memory and “sampling rate” are superior to humans. They have less agility and speed than an athletic human.
In appearance they look like humanoids wearing pieces of power armor. They “eat” power and in a pinch can absorb solar energy but prefer artificial power sources.
There are two factions of this group. The Network, which is a large group of Binoids who live as a collective mind. The Rogues, a small number who revolted against the Network and live independently of the Network, in societies resembling humanoid societies. They have not developed the social skills that smooth humanoid relationships so there are continual disputes and somewhat of an anarchy.
The Network keeps to itself, refusing to have diplomatic or other relationships with other species. Occasionally they will attack ships or planets. This is thought to be for the purpose of finding spare parts and assimilating individual humanoids into their Network.
Individual Rogues have trade and other relations with the other humanoid species. Some serve in various planetary militaries and even in the Confederation. Most humanoids dislike them as individuals because they either refuse to or are unable to learn social skills.
The Network is not all that dangerous a foe. They make occasional raids and are more of a nuisance than a real danger to the Confederation or other worlds.
One can recognize the difference between a Binoid in the Network and one who is a Rogue. The Network Binoids are all of uniform appearance, their bionic parts are more uniform and of the same color, usually a dark grey. The Rogues have scavenged a lot of parts and crafted their own so they look more pie bald in appearance. (sort of like those old cars one sees that have one fender red and the rest of the body blue.) [created by Linda Robinett]
The dominant species of the Pan Sentient Confederation is humanity. Terran humanity (and its various genetic offshoots created by genetic engineering) control about 45% of the approximately 10,000 Confederation’s member worlds. Humanity has matured a bit as it has spread through space, but is basically the same as it is now. Humanity in the PSC is much more tolerant of difference and somewhat less self-centered than than humanity of the late 20th century. The average true human has a life-expectancy of 150 years. This can be pushed to 250-300 years with expensive anti-agathics, a healthy life, and a lot of luck. Cybernetic enhancement was the vogue in the 2200s, but while still somewhat common today, it is now usually done for for specific purposes instead of simply because it can be done.
Thanks to the discovery of a major Forerunner site below the Western Australian desert in 2133, humanity has mastered basic genetic engineering. While Terran humanity is probably tens of thousands of years away from the ability to create new species from undifferentiated protoplasm as the Jorchim allegedly could, they can create sub-species of humanity and humanoid races tailored for specific talents and/or otherwise marginal planets. These creations are called sub-species because they are all genetically capable of interbreeding with each other and true humanity (even though, in some cases they might not be physically capable.) While, officially, there is no prejudice, many true humans look down on their genetic-engineered brethren.
After the abuses of World War IV (the so-called “Metamorph War”) in 2178, the Terran government has tried to maintain strict control of all genetic engineering projects and to hold those involved to extremely high ethical standards. While they have generally succeeded, there is still a Cartel-ran black market in genetically engineered humanoid slaves of various types in Confederation space and beyond. While the Terran government freely shares the knowledge they gained from the Forerunner site, they maintain a virtual monopoly on many of the biochemicals needed for more radical genetic engineering as they can (thus far) only be made by massive Forerunner equipment at the Australia site.
The L-Rame are a stoic, nearly emotionless humanoid species from a large, hot desert world bound by family duties, strange traditions and philosophies, and logic. While they are a small minority species in the Confederation, their great scientific and diplomatic abilities, make them second in power to Humanity. Scientists from the L-Rame Science Academy (who are not, of course, all L-Rame) hold over 30% of the patents and perform or supervise the majority of the basic scientific research in the Confederation. The L-Rame have a lifespan of 250-300 years, but there are no known anti-agathics that can increase it.
The Medeans are a humanoid species descended from felines. They are a very serious and somewhat arrogant species that seems to live for excitement and adventure. A Medean’s social status is mainly determined by where he has been and what she has done. While the average Medean looks (and often sounds) ferocious, most Medeans are followers of the Way, a pacifistic philosophy. Those who are not do make excellent marines.
The Sirie are a humanoid race, on average, slightly smaller and thinner than humans. Their skin ranges from a very light tan to a dark brown. Eye colors can be yellow, gold, brown or, rarely, green and are usually quite large. A bony ridge goes from the ear flaps, located low on either side of the head, to the center of the forehead, curving and thickening over the eyes, to meet at a point in the center of the forehead. Just behind the ridge, where the hairline starts, are slim antennae, which serve as additional sense organs. Due to the antennae, the Sirie have very acute senses of hearing, sight and smell. Hair on the head is quite thin, fine and straight, ranging from white to dark blond. The hair covers width of the head from behind the ridge, down the neck and back and narrows to a point at the middle of the lower back. Sirie limbs are thin, with fingers of three digits and an opposable thumb. While Sirie faces show little emotion and their body language is difficult to decipher, their antennae are quite expressive. They have been known to lay flat along the head in depression or stand straight up with fear.
The Sirie’s home planet is a dry world, having no oceans, though there are numerous lakes and rivers. Trees and plant life are abundant. There are no large carnivores though there are several species of large herbivores, most of which have been domesticated by the Sirie. Due to the relatively dry nature of the planet, the Sirie do not swim and dislike being immersed in water excessively. Note that due to the Sirie’s body makeup, they tend to sink like a stone in bodies of water.
The planetary government is very stratified. Class is strict and non- negotiable. Class layers include the ruling class, who are the wealthy and powerful; the warrior class, who get their wealth mostly from the ruling class and are highly honored by all; the working class, who are nearly a complete society within themselves; and the slave class, who have little of their own — they serve the ruling class and the warrior class. Within each class layer are numerous clans. Each clan will have ties to corresponding clans in the other classes. The classes will rarely interact, but the fortunes of corresponding clans from one class to another will often rise and fall together. [created by April Legate]
The Trell are a shape-changing species whose native form is sort of a very thick soup. They tend to assume the outward form of other species — although changing form takes 24-48 hours. For convenience, most Trell assume some type of humanoid form when dealing with humanoids. They were one of the founding members of the Pan Sentient Confederation. They are often considered too superficial by the L-Rame as they generally act as if they do not have a care in the world. Their lifespan is approximately 100 years, but this can be nearly doubled by relatively inexpensive anti-agathics.
The Bren are a bluish-skinned humanoid species who totally dominate BrenSpace. They are a militaristic race that believe they were created by their god to conquer and rule the galaxy. They believe that other humanoid species are the failed experiments of their Creator and are to be cared for as one might a child, unless they have be seduced to the side of the Destroyer. They believe that non-humanoid species were created by the Destroyer to be its army in a great battle to be held with the Creator at the end of time. Such species occasionally make useful slave species, but have no rights and can never be trusted. The Bren believe that the Pan Sentient Confederation is a tool of the Destroyer because it considers all species equal. With slightly over 3500 systems, BrenSpace is the Confederation’s main rival in the galactic arm. BrenSpace is technically a theocracy, but to outsiders it closely resembles an empire. In spite of their apparently warped point of view and their open hostility to the Confederation, the Bren are generally honorable beings who can be dealt with and trusted to keep their word once given, unlike the P’sill. Since the Fourth Bren War ended about 350 years ago, there have been many incidents along the border between these huge nations, but until recently the Bren have been too involved with internal problems (some type of religious schism) to bother with the Confederation. They are believed to have a lifespan similar to that of Humanity.
The Bren religion could best be summed up as “Manifest Destiny.” Their deity has chosen the Bren to expand out into the galaxy and show the unchosen species by example what the Creator(s) expect of them. In many respects the religion is very “Old Testament”-like with lots of rules and rituals to be observed. It’s also authoritarian, which fits the Bren military machine nicely.
Even their many enemies have to consider the basic teachings of the Bren religion noble and good; they are just taken to unbelievable extremes. The average Bren would be considered a religious fundamentalist in the Confederation. A Bren fundamentalist makes the worst of the fundamentalists of old Earth look like heretics in comparison.
Socially the Bren are organized into strong families and clans. To be clanless is to be no one. Clans sponsor temples, military units, and most of the rest of the infrastructure of Bren society. Each clan (and there are several hundred of them) has one vote in the assembly which approves appointments to the higher levels of the priesthood and selects the “King-Priest” when the current one dies. All laws and justice flow from the King-Priest speaking for God, however, the assembly has no other powers — at least officially.
The Frumm are long snake-like beings with two arms and a somewhat humanoid head. Like the lamia of Terran mythology, they keep the portion of their body near the head upright. An adult Frumm averages 17 feet long and stands about 5 feet high. The Frumm home world is an old, very dry planet. The only planet orbiting a fairly hot star. Records of Frumm civilization go back more than 400,000 standard years. The Frumm have only colonized 17 planets in their long history, but all 18 Frumm worlds are under a single government. The Frumm worlds are located inside Confederation space about 150 parsecs from BrenSpace. While Frumm technological advancement has been as slow as their colonization efforts (as they believe in fully consolidating all gains before moving on), their technology is still several hundred years in advance of that of the Confederation.
While the Frumm are slow to colonize, they are excellent explorers. They seem to enjoy the process of exploration and interacting with strange cultures. Frumm ships have roved this area of the galaxy for almost 100,000 years. The Frumm are a quiet, ethical species; if somewhat smug and standoffish. Unfortunately, Frumm ethics and Confederation ethics often clash. For example, the Confederation has a policy of non-interference in non-star-travelling cultures to allow them to take their own path — even if that path leads to the primitive culture’s self-destruction. The Frumm consider this policy highly immoral. One of the basic tenets of Frumm society is that if one able to act to save another, one is (almost) always obligated to do so.
To the Frumm, the Confederation is a childish society that has not yet grown up enough to realize it has a responsibility towards others. The Frumm therefore do not recognize the Confederation government. When forced by circumstance of their location to deal with the Confederation, they treat its representatives like the children they believe them to be. While the Frumm will not normally interfere with the Confederation, they will not tolerate any Confederation interference with their own activities even if such activities should violate confederation law. The Frumm have always responded firmly but non-violently to any Confederation attempts to force the Frumm to heed Confederation law while operating in the space claimed by the Confederation. As the Confederation has seen a single Frumm cruiser easily destroy a small Bren fleet (generally in retaliation for Bren destruction of a crippled small Frumm trading or exploration vessel) on several occasions, the Confederation is always very careful when “Frumm situations” arise. The Frumm opinion of the Bren appears to be “juvenile delinquents” with whom one must be willing to use a firm hand when they get out of hand. The Bren consider the Frumm to be spawn of the Destroyer, of course.
Jorchim is the Prithii name for the species normally referred to as the Forerunners or the Ancients: a powerful species that explored and seeded life throughout the galaxy almost a billion standard years ago then mysteriously disappeared. According to the Prithii — whose tremendous lifespans have the Forerunner seeding occurring only thirteen Prithii generations ago — the Jorchim were extra-galactic in origin and claimed to have been responsible for creating much of the cold life in the universe. The Prithii claim the Jorchim fled when they discovered that the universe had been invaded by a great evil that had somehow survived from a prior cycle of the universe. The Prithii are either unable or unwilling to explain in greater detail. Many of the Confederation’s scholars believe that the Prithii are simply playing a joke on “cold life” with these stories. The Bren consider the Jorchim to be the demon-followers of the Destroyer.
The Prithii are large glowing clouds of sparkles that live in deep space, approaching star systems only rarely. Prithii are seldom seen and when seen, seldom interact with “cold life” (their term for non-energy beings). Those few who have elected to interact with “cold life” briefly have told seemingly outrageous stories. For example, they claim to have evolved from sentient stars early in the life of the galaxy and that their ancestors watched the Ancients flee the galaxy in terror. If true, their lifespans must be tremendous as they claim that event was only thirteen generations ago. They show no real interest in the affairs of cold life. While there have been hundreds of Prithii sightings in the the last thousand standard years, there have been less than ten confirmed interchanges with a Prithii. At least some of the Bren apparently see the Prithii as messengers of the Creator.
The P’sill are a hive-like humanoid species descended from rodent-like creatures. They have genetic castes and apparently think little of themselves as individuals (the clan is all important) even though they do not have a true hive-mind. The P’sill Anarchy is a somewhat feudal collection of approximately 1000 systems rimward of the Confederation. It is hostile to everyone. The P’sill are not organized enough to be a real threat in spite of their high technology level, but they operate as ruthless pirates, taking anything that they can get away with. The P’sill have an average lifespan of 30-40 years, except for the leader castes which seem to live about twice as long. One relatively rare caste is powerfully psionic.
Alien Interstellar Transportation
The P’sill Hyperdrive (aka the Hump Drive)
Most hyperdrives are massive and very expensive. The P’Sill hyperdrive is an exception. A P’Sill drive is 85% less massive than a standard hyperdrive and costs about 80% of a standard drive. P’Sill drives also allow vessels to enter hyperspace at a slightly lower normal space velocity (98.2% of lightspeed instead of the standard 99.5%). This latter ability is very useful for P’Sill pirates — and the larger cargo space the smaller drive mass allows doesn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, P’Sill drives have a nasty side-effect on about 70% of known species (including most mammalian humanoid species other than the P’Sill): the initial activation of the drive to enter hyperspace drives affected species into a homicidal mania — unless they are having sexual intercourse while the drive is active (hence, the “Hump drive” nickname). This prevents the mania in most affected species, but has other side effects. Because of necessary activities, affected crew members are generally incapable of doing anything else for some minutes before Hump drive activation and for 30 to 120 minutes afterward. This effectively prevents the use of the P’Sill drive in military and many large commercial vessels of those species affected. The drive also seems to produce telepathic exchanges between those on the vessel when it activates. These are strongest between sexual partners, but to an certain extent, everyone in the crew can roam through the minds of every other member of the crew for 20 to 40 minutes after the use of the drive to enter hyperspace. Regardless of their drawbacks, P’Sill drives are often used on small “family” trading PSC vessels. To small traders, the lower mass and cost often mean the difference between profit and bankruptcy.
About two hundred years ago, a Prithii stopped to “chat” with an L’Rame science vessel having trouble with its hyperdrive in an uninhabited star system. It suggested in an off-hand manner before it left that the L’Rame might try passing through a particular point in the system from a specific direction at a specific sublight speed. Having little else to do while they repaired their hyperdrive, they did as suggested. When they reached the point specified, the universe suddenly ceased to exist and the ship appeared to be hanging in unending grayness, unable to move. About ten days later, the grayness was suddenly replaced by the normal universe. The ship was moving with the same speed and direction it had before the grayness appeared, but was some 500 parsecs away, near the star of a sector Starforce base The L’Rame research vessel had just discovered jump points.
As relatively few stars have jump points and most of those that do are only connected to nearby stars (so travel via jump tunnel is much slower than travel via Hyperspace), one might think that jump tunnels are seldom important to star systems lucky enough to have them. In practice, they are often very important. Hyperdrives are expensive and the larger the vessel, the more expensive they get. Vessels without hyperdrives can travel via a jump tunnel. Jump tunnels make bulk material trade between linked systems profitable and make possible very cheap travel between system linked by jump tunnels. All Frumm worlds are thought to be connected by a system of jump tunnels as this would explain how the Frumm worlds can operate as if they were in a single star system.
I like this setting! I think it would be a lot of fun to put it together in a game, and play.
I thought so too. While it wasn’t really designed with RPGing in mind, it seems quite gameable. There are two more parts to come. Part 3 will talk about
starfleetthe Starforce. Part 4 will be an alternative version a few hundred years in the future after the Confederation government became too big to function and turned into the Pan Sentient Imperium.