It’s Thank You Thursday!

Radio Free Covenant - It's Thank You Thursday!

It’s Thank You Thursday! Thank you to everyone who has followed us here at Radio Free Covenant!

Meet the Thk’kok – Part 2

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Thk'kok - Part 2

(Having trouble with the pronouns? Check out this post, and be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast while you’re reading it!)

Sean again. Earlier this week, I told you about the thk’kok. Now let’s look at some of the traits that you’ll use to make them in Covenant.

Keep in mind, by way, that these traits, like everything else on this blog, are subject to frequent and massive change. Take a look at this post on how character traits are classified, in case you forgot.

Species Trait: Thk’kok
Thk’kok are about six to seven feet long and about four to five feet tall (size 5). Their four arms and four legs let them make more attacks and help them climb and wrestle. This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids that can benefit from a large number of hands or limbs.

Gender Traits: Depends on Age
Thk’kok can choose Male, Female, or Transition for their gender trait. I was going to have each gender give its own advantages and disadvantages for thk’kok characters, unlike most sapient species. However, I’ve decided to shelve this bit and do some research on gender – especially how to handle this correctly in a game – before proceeding with this part of their design.

Outlooks:

  • Wild: Pastoral thk’kok are called “wild” by their city-dwelling brethren. Wild thk’kok tend to be traditionalists and to wrap much of their identity in their nation. They take the complex web of alliances and rivalries between thk’kok nations very seriously. They also tend to hate the human invaders of their homeworld, as well as the thk’kok “traitors” who live amongst them (sometimes against their will). This trait is worth 1 advantage for stealth and survival bids.
  • Tamed: Thk’kok who have chosen to live amongst other species are called “tamed” by pastoral thk’kok. They prefer the advantages of living in a technologically advanced civilization. Some prefer a multicultural society, while others adopt the culture of their alien neighbors. Tamed thk’kok are terrified of wild thk’kok. They view pastoral thk’kok as savages and often hate them more than their human neighbors on Slice o’Heaven. This trait is worth 1 advantage to technology bids and bids to deal with other species.
  • Neutral: You don’t really care what species your neighbors are. Choose 1 general trait or 1 ability.

Nations
The thk’kok have a unique set of traits called nations. These are ethnic groups with a cultural identity that is far stronger than anything seen in humans. Each nation has its own set of abilities that are only available to its members or to characters who are “adopted” into it. These nations will include:

  • People of the Rock Lodge: A sedentary nation in Slice o’Heaven’s Red Zone. Known for their elaborate stonework and buereaucracy, as well as their ability to play the other nations against each other. The self-styled leaders of the thk’kok resistance against the human invaders.
  • White Hands: A nomadic nation in Slice o’Heaven’s Yellow Zone. Includes large numbers of exiles from other nations. Kicked out of the Red Zone by the People of the Rock Lodge. Known for their diplomatic skills.
  • Invariably Dominant in All Things: A sedentary nation in the Red Zone. A warrior nation known for its underhanded tactics. Forced out the Broken Lances to become the People of the Rock Lodge’s goon squad. Known almost universally as IDIATs.
  • Broken Lances: A nomadic nation in the Yellow Zone. Known for their tactical expertise and their use of berserkers. Exiled from the Red Zone by the People of the Rock Lodge.
  • People of the Black Stone: A nomadic nation in the Asgard Mountains between the Red and Yellow Zones. Specializes in mountain living, fighting, and smuggling. Will sell their services to the highest bidder.
  • People of the Burning Tower: A catch-all “nation” comprised of thk’kok voluntarily or involuntarily assimilated into human society.

Domains:

  • Old Empire: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Old Empire. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your station:
    • Retainer: You are a commoner or a member of a minor noble house working for a Great House. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two bids of your choice (e.g., fighting, investigation, bodyguarding, medicine, etc.) that would be useful to a Great House.
    • Merchant: You are a business-owner and a provider of goods and/or services. This trait is work 1 advantage to social and purchase bids.
    • Machinist: You are a skilled worker and one of the essential freemen that keeps the Old Empire running. This trait is worth 1 advantage to building and repair bids.
    • Conscript: You are a peasant who was conscripted to serve the Old Empire. This trait is worth 1 advantage to fighting and defense bids
    • Peasant: You are a farmer or a factory worker employed by a merchant or noble. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids of your choice: farming, operation, repair, building, athletics.
    • Outlaw: You are a criminal, beggar, or anyone else that has fallen through the cracks of society. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, social, intimidation, deception.
  • Covenant: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Old Empire. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on the region of Cadelle that you came from:
    • Rethenne Lowlands: Home to a number of major schools, universities, and research facilities, as well as commonwealths serving refugees. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: social, education, medicine, technology.
    • Star’s End: A major mining and manufacturing region with a thriving music scene. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, repair, operation, entertainment.
    • The Land of Sun and Stone: Mountainous, sparsely populated region with philosophical, inward-looking inhabitants. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: education, survival, defense, resist.
    • The Shashenne: Densely urban region where much of the business on Cadelle gets done. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: social, purchase, building, repair, technology, medicine.
    • Qoros: The breadbasket of Cadelle, supplmented by a growing manufacturing sector. Major passtimes for kids here are cars and making homemade explosives out of fertilizer. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, repair, farming, operation, demolition.
    • The Green-and-Gold: Heavily forested area. Home of the very thick and very dangerous Cathedral Forest, as well as calerre trides that want nothing to do with modern life or outsiders. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: medicine, education, survival, stealth.
    • Seventh Continent: A huge habitat ring orbiting Cadelle and connected to the surface by massive orbital elevators. So-called because it is large enough to be a continent in its own right. The citizens of Seventh Continet constantly experiment with both their society and their own bodies. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: medicine, education, operation, social.
    • The Islands of Steel and Fear: The remnants of a defensive Dyson sphere that the calerre built against a thk’kok invasion that never came. It has since been colonized by various weirdos, loners, and misanthropes who have a single common cause – to be left alone. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: survival, operation, repair, defense.
  • Archimedean Confederation: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Confederation. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Confederation:
    Executive: You have a fairly high position in one of the Confederation’s company-states. This trait is worth 1 advantage to social and purchase bids.
    • Corporate: You are a scientist, engineer, or manager employed by a company-state. This trait is worth 1 advantage to building and education.
    • Security: You are either a freelance security contractor, or you do security and military work for one of the company-states. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: investigation, fighting, intimidation.
    • Contractor: You are part of the army of poorly paid contractors that keeps the company-states going. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, operation, repair, medicine.
    • Unclassified: You are someone who doesn’t fit into the company-state’s neat classifications of corporate citizens. You may be homeless, a pirate, an escaped slave, or simply unemployed. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.
  • Terran Federation: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Terran Federation. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Confederation:
    • Citizen: Somehow, you have gained the Federation’s grudging trust, though you are still the target of anti-chiroptim bigotry on a daily basis. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: education, medicine, building, repair.
    • Trooper: You have decided that the best way to gain the Federation’s acceptance is to join the military. This trait is worth 1 advantage to fighting and intimidation.
    • Criminal: You are homeless, unemployed, a pacifist, or anything else that the Federation has criminalized. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.
  • Dominion: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Dominion. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Dominion:
    • Proscribed: Aliens like you don’t appear in the Bible, so your very existence is an affront to God. It’s almost impossible for you to have any other kind of role here besides a criminal and exile. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.

That’s about it for the thk’kok. Come back next week for everyone’s favorite bunch of survivalists, refugees, and religious fanatics. That’s right, we’re going to see how humanity has fared in the 28th century.

Meet the Thk’kok – Part 1

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Thk'kok - Part 1

(Having trouble with the pronouns? Check out this post, and be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast while you’re reading it!)

Sean again. We’ve introduced you to the calerre (part 1 and part 2), the chiroptim (part 1 and part 2), and the acoes (part 1 and part 2). Now it’s time to meet the thk’kok!

As always, remember that everything on this blog is subject to frequent and massive change. That especially goes for the thk’kok, because they’re the hardest ones for me to envision. Partly it’s because there’s some things about them that I don’t want to reveal (yet), and partly it’s because they’re so alien.

Appearance: Like I said, thk’kok are probably the most alien-looking species in Covenant. They have a long thorax covered in shaggy hair and with eight legs, each with two elbow-like joints. The rear four limbs end in feet with three mutually opposable toes, while the forward four end in hands with three mutually opposable fingers.

Thk’kok normally only use their hands to manipulate their environment but can, with practice, learn to use their feet as well. This makes them expert climbers, as well as dangerous opponents in hand-to-hand fights. Their backs sport a pair of thin, leathery wings. These wings are too small for them to fly, though a few are able to glide with them.

Their heads have four solid-colored eyes. Two are designed for depth-perception, while the others are designed for wide-angle peripheral vision. However, a thk’kok can – again, with practice – learn to focus a pair of eyes on a separate object, allowing them to aim and fire two weapons at the same time.

Their lower jaws split open, much like a trap door. This reveals a hollow, harpoon-like tongue.

Thk’kok rarely wear clothes. Their thick pelts keep them warm. Instead, they will tattoo their limbs and head, which are hairless, and will braid the hair of their their shaggy coats with beads, leather thongs, ribbons, wires, and anything else they can find.

Reproduction: Thk’kok are viviparous and sequentially hermaphroditc. They are born male and begin to transition to female at about 20 to 30 years. This transition period lasts, depending on the amount of care and availability of hormones, anywhere between 5 to 10 years.

Biology: Humans often called thk’kok “bugs”, based on their appearance. Thk’kok are not insects, though. In fact, they don’t really have any analog to Earth organisms, besides being warm-blooded and bearing live young.

One of the main differences between the thk’kok and Earth organisms is their diet. The tissues of their wings contain photosynthetic cells that allow them to survive on less food. When they do eat, they shoot their hollow tongues into their prey, pumping in digestive juices, and then sucking out the liquefied innards, much like a spider.

Another major difference is their lack of vocal cords. Thk’kok can normally only communicate via clicks and glottal stops. To send messages over long distances, pastoral thk’kok will use bone and wood whistles of different pitches. Thk’kok who live among other sapient species will also often get laryngeal implants that allow them to speak “normally”.

Psychology: Thk’kok psychology is at its most alien on their homeworld of Slice o’Heaven. Pastoral thk’kok here don’t have a real sense of individuality, and the first person singular doesn’t exist in their various languages. Instead, most will refer to themselves as “this one” or as their role in their tribe or group (e.g., “this warrior”, “this technician”, “this mother”, etc.).

It should be noted, though, that this appears to be cultural, not biological. Thk’kok raised or living amongst aliens will develop as strong a sense of individuality as any human’s. Sociologists theorize that this is a survival adaptation to the unique challenges presented by Slice o’Heaven.

Lifespan: Thk’kok have an average lifespan of 40 to 50 years on their homeworld Slice o’Heaven. This lengthens to about 200 years off-planet and up to 1,200 years in the Covenant.

History: The calerre contacted the thk’kok approximately 120,000 years ago. At that time, the thk’kok were both technologically advanced and very hostile, wiping out the Covenant’s first contact team almost to a man.

Not much is known about the thk’kok from this time, though. When the Covenant returned, the thk’kok homeworld had been devastated by a huge explosion in its southern hemisphere, and the thk’kok had been reduced to a Stone Age level of technology. Whatever happened, it both wiped out most of the thk’kok’s records from this time and created two powerful entities – the Mother and the Worm that Burrows in the Heart of the Mother, also known as the Worm – that would seize control of the planet’s history.

Now, the thk’kok are just as intelligent and adaptable – possibly more so – than humanity. However, the thk’kok on Slice o’Heaven remained in the Stone Age right up until the present day. This is because they have been caught in the middle of a war between the Mother and the Worm, which has suppressed their development.

To make matters worse, humans from the Terran Federation settled on the thk’kok homeworld about 400 years ago and quickly enslaved much of the planet. (The name “Slice o’Heaven” is the human name of the planet, not the thk’kok name) These human settlers were nostalgists who longed to recreate Earth on their new home, and so attempted to terraform it. This created three areas on the planet:

  • The Green Zone, which is completely terraformed with an Earth-like biome
  • The Red Zone, which is completely un-terraformed and retains its native biome
  • The Yellow Zone, which is the interface between the Green and Red Zones and holds a mixture of Earth and native organisms

The thk’kok resistance retreated into the Red Zone, where they continue to fight the human invaders to this day. As for the Mother and Worm, they have stayed out of this fight for reasons of their own.

Abilities: The thk’kok have two main species abilities:

  • Multiple Limbs: The thk’kok gain advantages to anything that would benefit from having more than two hands, such as climbing or wrestling. They also have weapons and martial arts that take advantage of their unique anatomy, giving them more attacks and making them more dangerous in fights.
  • Nations: The thk’kok are grouped into “nations”. These nations have greater differences than the ethnic groups found in other species, allowing them to specialize more and giving them access to nation-specific abilities.

Handles: These are single words that I use to try to get a handle on the thk’kok.

  • Adaptable: Usually humans are the “adaptable” species in roleplaying games. I decided to subvert that by giving that distinction to the thk’kok. After all, they have to be able to survive on a world controlled by two omnipotent forces and invaded by an alien species. They’ve managed, not just to survive, but even thrive. They’ve also learned how to turn alien weapons and tactics against their creators.
  • Guerilla: Pastoral thk’kok are often lightly-armed Stone Age hunter-gatherers. To survive against superior human forces, they have to be able to live off the land, pick their fights, and move fast.
  • Immigrant: Thk’kok who live amongst alien sapients, either willingly or unwillingly, face all the problems that slaves and immigrants have faced throughout history. They must adapt to a new culture and withstand prejudice, all while trying to make a living and provide for their families. Some will become model citizens. Others will become criminals. Still others will become firebrands who fight for civil rights and social justice.
  • Mystic: The thk’kok worship the Mother and Worm as gods. Because of this, thk’kok who haven’t spent a lot of time off Slice o’Heaven will be mystical and highly superstitious.

That’s about it for now. Swing by Wednesday when we show you how to roll up a thk’kok character.

Radio Free Covenant: Meet the Valka, Part 2

Radio Free Covenant - Episode 5 - Meet the Valka, Part 2
Episode 5 – Meet the Valka, Part 2

You learned what the valka are and why you shouldn’t piss them off last episode. Now Sazzy’s going to go into:

  • Their deep, deep history
  • The significance of their world in the Algol system
  • The effect two valka named Karu and Katra have had on the rest of the species

This is definitely deep lore stuff. It might not make it into your game. It’s good to know it, though. These might have happened thousands and even millions of years ago, but they’re still making their presence known today.

Also, apologies for the sound quality. We’re still trying to get our bearings here. Hopefully, this won’t happen again.

So, what did you think? Do you want to know more about the valka? Leave a message here or drop us a line at radiofreecovenant@gmail.com, and if we like it, we’ll respond on air. Remember, if you don’t tell us what we did wrong, we can’t fix it.


Don’t miss the previous episode of Radio Free Covenant, Meet the Valka, Part 1.


Our announcer was the dulcet-toned voice actor Markus Phoenix. You can reach him at Markankhamen@yahoo.com.

Interstitial music was Worst Sound by Gowler Music at https://gowlermusic.com/ and https://gowlermusic.bandcamp.com/. Used with permission.

Outro music was Speed of Light by Lyvo at https://www.facebook.com/LyvoOfficial/ and https://lyvomusic.bandcamp.com/. Used with permission.

Today in Podcasts: Behind the Bastards, “The Bastard Manifesto”

Today in Podcasts - Behind the Bastards - The Bastard Manifesto

Sean here. Between work, recovering from work, and designing Covenant, I don’t have a lot of free time to read. I hate to admit this, but listening to podcasts has really been the only intellectual stimulation I’ve had for a while.

Some of these have been integral to Covenant’s development. Others have helped me develop the ideas that I wrote about in my novel Crossing the Line. So I figured, why not share?

Today’s podcast is the Behind the Bastards episode The Bastard Manifesto: if authoritarianism is a virus, then Alan Dulles was an anti-vaxxer and fascism is a cancer. What’s not to like about that?

A Note from Sean about the Blog and Podcast

Sean here. I’m going to slow our roll a bit on both the blog and podcast:

  • Blog: Posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridat
  • Podcast: Every other Tuesday

Thanks for being patient with us as we sort things out here. Hopefully, slowing things down will allow us to put out a better podcast and blog, as well as better novel and game.

Cecilia D’Anastasio on Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and Dungeons and Dragons’ Origins

Covenant Game Design - Cecilia D'Anastasio on Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, and Dungeons and Dragons' Origins

Sean here. While researching Covenant, I decided that I needed, for whatever reason, to figure out what a roleplaying game is and how the differ from other types of games, like computer games. I put that to my gaming friends, and one of them (I think it was John, Roll20 has apparently eaten the message) gave me this interesting scenario.

Imagine a rope bridge spanning a deep gorge and separating your character from the monsters. My friend John said that, in a roleplaying game, you could tell the Dungeon Master (DM) that you want to burn the ropes holding up the bridge with a fireball spell, and the DM would decide whether the ropes would burn and if the bridge would fall into the gorge. The DM could even decide to have the monsters walking across the bridge when you cast your fireball because, well, he’d almost have to.

I mean, come on. It’s a rope bridge. What else are those things good for in a game, if not for pitching mooks into a bottomless pit?

You can’t do that in a computer game, though, said John – not unless the game developers programmed the bridge’s ropes to burn. That’s not necessarily a detail that the devs would think of or have the time to program.

That’s the main difference between roleplaying games and most other types of games: a referee who can make it up on the fly.


Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is considered the first roleplaying game. It was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, both wargamers. Gygax brought his Chainmail wargame, which had a fantasy supplement for elves and fireballs, and Arneson brought the Braunstein-style wargames that he was playing the Twin Cities area, and somehow out of that Gygax created D&D.

That’s the official story, at least.

While I was researching my roleplaying game, I decided to do some casual research into the first roleplaying game. What I found ran against D&D’s official story.

Gygax’s Chainmail was just a wargame. It was skinned for fantasy wargame, but in the end it was a fairly standard wargame without roleplaying elements.

Arneson was a different story. His Braunstein games had everything I’d associate with a roleplaying game, including:

  • Persistent characters that players could take from game session to game session
  • “Theatre of the mind” game play
  • A referee who could make judgments on rules and even new rules on the fly

Keep in mind, this wasn’t some kind of Bernstein-and-Woodward investigation. There was no man-on-the-inside, no Deep Throat, no midnight meetings in vacant lots and parking garages with a pistol in my pocket. Instead, I used Google when I had the time, and sometimes not even then.
But it did nag at me.

This recent article in Kotaku by Cecilia D’Anastasio, Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax, crystallized those dobuts in my mind. Here’s a long quote from D’Anastasio’s article:

Chainmail, or more specifically its fantasy supplement, is widely considered to be the prototype of D&D. This is stated in all the books: in the Gygax biography Empire of the Imagination, in the graphic novel Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D, and in Playing at the World. It’s stated in the articles, the forum posts, the oral histories. Despite all of this, Chainmail was decidedly not a role-playing game. It wasn’t structured around campaigns. There were no experience points. Characters weren’t acted out, or represented as being anyone other than the player.

In his Minnesota basement games incubator, Arneson ran a game of Chainmail. He loved the medieval setting and the fantasy trappings in the supplement, and played the game consistently for about a month. One day after the game of Chainmail had wound down, Arneson was at rest, binging five monster movies on Creature Feature weekend, gobbling down fistfuls of popcorn, playing with some graph paper, flipping through a Conan book.
Chainmail, he thought, could make for a solid combat ruleset for a more expansive sort of game, an ongoing one like Braunstein. That restful day, Arneson idly considered bringing Gygax’s new combat ruleset into the developing game tradition he and his friends were carving out: role-playing.

“There will be a medieval ‘Braunstein’ April 17, 1971, at the home of Dave Arneson from 1300 hrs to 2400 hrs with refreshments being available on the usual basis,” Arneson advertised in his wargaming group’s small-circulation newsletter, Corner of the Table Top. “It will feature mythical creatures and a Poker game under the Troll’s bridge between sunup and sundown.”

Players took novice characters—“flunkies” in their terms—and implanted them in Blackmoor, a medieval setting of Arneson’s own invention. Arneson’s map of the town perfectly resembles an early Dungeons & Dragons map, with roads and wilderness that eventually give way to a central, barricaded town. Giants roaming the land would send the players scrambling for the safety of the town. Later, there would be evil wizards and castles and gold, dungeon exploration mechanics. Chainmail’s armor class and hit point mechanics, Stormberg says, Arneson expanded on to fit Blackmoor’s gameplay.

According to Secrets of Blackmoor, on that April day in 1971, Arneson gathered his friends around his ping-pong table, on which he often taped down a layer of brown paper maps. What transpired there, three years before the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, could very well have been the first-ever session of a fantasy tabletop role-playing game. There were no complicated miniature armies, no rulers, no graph paper. It was dice and imagination. Arneson played the “referee,” like the one in the rules of Braunstein, who conjured descriptions of what the players saw. For the most part, the game existed in Arneson’s head.

I’m not saying that Gygax was the Steve Jobs to Arneson’s Steve Wozniak. Gygax was capable of designing games, and you could argue that Arneson’s game would never have made it to a wider audience without Gygax’s drive.

You could even say that these aren’t Arneson’s ideas. Braunstein was invented by David Wesely, one of Arneson’s friends, and the idea of refereed wargames goes back at least to Charles Totten’s 1880 book Strategos: The American Game of War.

Arneson does deserve more credit, though. Maybe he didn’t invent D&D out of whole cloth, but his innovations were critical to its development.


I’m not sure why I posted this. Maybe it was to take advantage of something that’s currently in the gaming zetigeist.

However, it is good to know that my hunches about one of my favorite hobbies was correct, too.

Meet the Acoes – Part 2

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Acoes: Part 2

(Having trouble with the pronouns? Check out this post, and be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast while you’re reading it!)

Sean again. Yesterday, I told you about acoes. Now let’s look at some of the traits that you’ll use to make them in Covenant.

Keep in mind, by way, that these traits, like everything else on this blog, are subject to frequent and massive change. Take a look at this post on how character traits are classified, in case you forgot.

Species Trait: Aco
Acoes are about 18 inches tall or so (size 3). Their small size makes them both athletic and agile. This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving athletics – like running, climbing, or swimming – and agility.

Gender Traits: Depends on Generation

  • Generation One: Gen-1 acoes are vat-grown and asexual. They have cybernetic brain implants that both give them useful skills as well as indoctrinate them. This trait is worth 1 advantage for non-fighting tasks, but 1 disadvantage to resist orders from other sapients. These implants also increase their vulnerability to electrical attacks and are worth 1 disadvantage to resist electrical damage.
  • Generation Two: Gen-2 acoes are either male or female. Neither of these gender traits have game effects on their own, though they may give you 1 disadvantage to social or purchase bids if your character is in the wrong part of the Orion Arm. Nonbinary genders are also available.

Outlooks:

  • Separatist: Separatist acoes are obsessed with freedom, both for themselves and other acoes. They blame other species, especially humans, for their misfortunes. Therefore, acoes should have their own communities, governed by acoes, where they can develop their own culture. They think integrationist acoes are naive at best and species traitors at worst. This trait is worth 1 advantage to stealth and deception.
  • Integrationist: Integrationist acoes want the same rights as other sapient species. They may have radical methods to get there, but in the end they think that they should be integrated with other species. The Covenant is the gold standard for this, and many integrationists want to live there. However, many prefer to gain these rights in their current homes instead of becoming refugees. Integrationists see separatists as troublemakers at best and terrorists at worst. This trait is worth 1 advantage to technology bids and bids to deal with other species.
  • Neutral: You don’t have strong opinions about aco rights or other species. If you live outside the Covenant, you’re probably too busy keeping your head down to care. Choose 1 general trait or 1 ability.

Domains:

  • Old Empire: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Old Empire. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your station:
    • Retainer: You are a commoner or a member of a minor noble house working for a Great House. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two bids of your choice (e.g., fighting, investigation, bodyguarding, medicine, etc.) that would be useful to a Great House.
    • Merchant: You are a business-owner and a provider of goods and/or services. This trait is work 1 advantage to social and purchase bids.
    • Machinist: You are a skilled worker and one of the essential freemen that keeps the Old Empire running. This trait is worth 1 advantage to building and repair bids.
    • Conscript: You are a peasant who was conscripted to serve the Old Empire. This trait is worth 1 advantage to fighting and defense bids
    • Peasant: You are a farmer or a factory worker employed by a merchant or noble. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids of your choice: farming, operation, repair, building, athletics.
    • Outlaw: You are a criminal, beggar, or anyone else that has fallen through the cracks of society. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, social, intimidation, deception.
  • Covenant: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Old Empire. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on the region of Cadelle that you came from:
    • Rethenne Lowlands: Home to a number of major schools, universities, and research facilities, as well as commonwealths serving refugees. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: social, education, medicine, technology.
    • Star’s End: A major mining and manufacturing region with a thriving music scene. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, repair, operation, entertainment.
    • The Land of Sun and Stone: Mountainous, sparsely populated region with philosophical, inward-looking inhabitants. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: education, survival, defense, resist.
    • The Shashenne: Densely urban region where much of the business on Cadelle gets done. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: social, purchase, building, repair, technology, medicine.
    • Qoros: The breadbasket of Cadelle, supplmented by a growing manufacturing sector. Major passtimes for kids here are cars and making homemade explosives out of fertilizer. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, repair, farming, operation, demolition.
    • The Green-and-Gold: Heavily forested area. Home of the very thick and very dangerous Cathedral Forest, as well as calerre trides that want nothing to do with modern life or outsiders. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: medicine, education, survival, stealth.
    • Seventh Continent: A huge habitat ring orbiting Cadelle and connected to the surface by massive orbital elevators. So-called because it is large enough to be a continent in its own right. The citizens of Seventh Continet constantly experiment with both their society and their own bodies. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: medicine, education, operation, social.
    • The Islands of Steel and Fear: The remnants of a defensive Dyson sphere that the calerre built against a thk’kok invasion that never came. It has since been colonized by various weirdos, loners, and misanthropes who have a single common cause – to be left alone. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: survival, operation, repair, defense.
  • Archimedean Confederation: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Confederation. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Confederation:
    • Executive: You have a fairly high position in one of the Confederation’s company-states. This trait is worth 1 advantage to social and purchase bids.
    • Corporate: You are a scientist, engineer, or manager employed by a company-state. This trait is worth 1 advantage to building and education.
    • Security: You are either a freelance security contractor, or you do security and military work for one of the company-states. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: investigation, fighting, intimidation.
    • Contractor: You are part of the army of poorly paid contractors that keeps the company-states going. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: building, operation, repair, medicine.
    • Unclassified: You are someone who doesn’t fit into the company-state’s neat classifications of corporate citizens. You may be homeless, a pirate, an escaped slave, or simply unemployed. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.
  • Terran Federation: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Terran Federation. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Confederation:
    • Trooper: You were bought as a living weapon for the Terran Federation’s military. This trait is worth 1 advantage to fighting and intimidation.
    • Criminal: You don’t have any rights as an aco. You might have an owner who will fee and protect you, but they can also do whatever they want to you. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.
  • Dominion: This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving the history, law, and politics of the Dominion. In addition, chose 1 of the following traits, based on your role in the Dominion:
    • Proscribed: The fundamentalist humans of the Dominion blame the calerre for the destruction of Earth. It’s almost impossible for you to have any other kind of role here besides a criminal and exile. This trait is worth 1 advantage to two of the following bids: stealth, deception, intimidation, sabotage.

Species Traits: Chassis and Skins
Acoes have two unique types of body mods: body configurations or chassis covered by skins. Each chassis and skins gives an aco character abilities unavailable to other species. The type and number of chassis and skins available depends on whether an aco character is Generation One or Two.

  • Generation One: Gen-1 acoes can choose from the widest variety of chassis, including chassis with multiple limbs, snakelike or fishlike chassis, heavy-duty chassis with stronger bones, and even chassis with tentacles. They can place one skin over their chassis.
  • Generation Two: Gen-2 acoes are limited to a standard chassis with two hands and two legs. However, they can spend as many character development traits on skins as they want. It’s assumed that a Gen-2 aco has ancestors with wildly different skins, allowing them to choose from more than one.

That’s about it for the acoes. Come back next week for the four-armed, four-legged thk’kok of Slice o’Heaven!

Meet the Acoes – Part 1

(Having trouble with the pronouns? Check out this post, and be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast while you’re reading it!)

Sean again. We’ve introduced you to the calerre (part 1 and part 2) and the chiroptim (part 1 and part 2). Now it’s time to meet the acoes!

As always, remember that everything on this blog is subject to frequent and massive change.

Appearance: The thing to remember about acoes is that they are artificial organisms, or rather Artificially Created Organisms. They were developed by humans about 750 years ago as “biological toys” for children and “biological tools” for industry, and thus have a wide variety of appearances. None are larger than 18 inches tall or long.

Toy acoes are designed to be companions, teachers, and medical assistance for children. Acoes for boys look like soldiers, dragons, cowboys, or knights, while acoes for girls look like fairies, mermaids, unicorns, or ponies. There are also dinosaur models popular with both boys and girls.

Tool acoes, on the other hand, have bodies that are designed for specific jobs. Thus, they may have extra limbs or bodies designed for specific environments, like water or poisonous atmospheres. There’s also a market in acoes designed specifically as sex toys.

Reproduction: Generation One or “Gen-1” acoes are asexual. They can only reproduce by being grown from artificial embryos. Gen-1s typically have cybernetics implanted before they are “decanted” or born. These include brain implants programmed with useful skills and indoctrination to increase their loyalty to their purchasers. Gen-1 acoes are still grown, especially outside the Covenant.

Generation Two or “Gen-2” acoes are viviparous and sexually dimorphic. Men and women have some differences, but they’re mostly cultural (especially in feral communities) and insignificant from the perspective of game mechanics. Acoes and aco rightists developed the Gen-2s to give acoes what they consider to be a fundamental right of any sapient species: the ability to reproduce independently.

Biology: All acoes – even scaly models like dragons and dinosaurs – are mammals, much like humans.

Their anatomies have two parts: a “chassis” and a “skin”. The chassis includes the skeleton, internal organs, and muscles, while the skin is mostly just that – the epidermis. A Gen-1 chassis can technically have any configuration the customer wants. A Gen-2 chassis, on the other hand, is confined to two arms and two legs from genetics.

Both Gen-1 and Gen-2 acoes can have wildly different appearances from individual to individual. Gen-1 acoes can have more or less than four limbs, specialized limbs, and even snakelike, fishlike, or mollusk-like bodies. Gen-2s, on the other hand, can have skins with multiple qualities from their parentage, including scales, fur, subdermal plating, enhanced musculatures, prehensile tails, and claws.

Psychology: It’s important to keep in mind that acoes are not robots. They’re flesh and blood, and they’re sapient.

Nevertheless, acoes have no rights outside of the Covenant. They were designed to be disposable – expensive, but disposable – and their owners tend to treat them that way. All giving acoes rights does is increase their short-term cost, and if an aco runs away to escape being mistreated, then hir owner has to buy another aco. Aco rights just don’t make business sense.

For this reason, acoes dream of escaping their owners, either to the Covenant or to one of thousands of underground aco communities scattered throughout the Orion Arm. Those who can’t try to support each other as best they can, then try to sneak off to blow off steam while their owners sleep.

Lifespan: Gen-1s have “suicide genes” that limit their lifespan to about 20 years. If they can get these genes de-activated, they can live for up to 100 years. Gen-2s, on the other hand, have a maximum lifespan of 50 years outside the Covenant or 500 years within the Covenant, due to the Covenant’s better quality-of-life and medical care.

History: Acoes have no history, at least not in the traditional sense. Even the chiroptim can point to the Old World as their homeworld. Acoes, on the other hand, have no homeworld and no shared history or traditions.

They are trying to change that, though. They have their own networks of sharing information and culture, from encrypted communications to messengers and “bards” to literature. Free acoes create their own hidden communities where they can continue to be free. Slave acoes sneak away from their charges to decompress at their own underground clubs and theaters, all while dreaming of the day that they can finally escape to freedom.

Abilities: Acoes have two abilities.

  • Variable Anatomies: Acoes have their own unique body mods. Gen-1 characters can pick from a wide variety of chassis, while Gen-2 characters can choose one or more skins. Gen-1s also receive brain implants that give them advantages to certain bids but increase their vulnerability to electrical attacks. In addition, acoes can have more genetic and cybernetic body mods than other species.
  • Intelligence Network: Acoes can get into places and see things that other species can’t. This information is distributed through an informal web of high and low tech communication that is the largest intelligence network in the Orion Arm. Aco characters can gain species abilities that give them access to information and contacts from this network. Advanced characters can even blackmail opponents into losing fights or attacking their own allies.

Handles: These are single words that I use to try to get a handle on the acoes.

  • Resistance: Acoes will either die for their freedom, die to keep their freedom, or die to give someone else their freedom. They will never stop fighting or resisting.
  • Cute: Acoes are products. They’re made to be appealing, usually to children, so they tend to look cute and adorable. Their smiles might be forced, and they may smell of old cigarettes and cheap whiskey, but they’re at least superficially cute. (This GIF of My Little Pony’s Twilight Sparkle having a normal day is a fair approximation)
  • Caring: No matter how much their charges hurt them, acoes do care about them, at least on some level. They were designed to care. They might fight it, but they still care. Acoes also see how humans treat their children, and they know how that cruelty can be visited on them in turn.