Meet the Calerre – 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 a little bit about the calerre. Now let’s see how they look in the Covenant game system.

Keep in mind, by way, that these traits, like everything else on this blog, are subject to massive change. Take a look at Wednesday’s post for a refresher on how these traits are classified.

Species Trait: Calerre
Adult calerre are approximately human-sized (size 5). They are agile and tough. This trait is worth 1 advantage to bids involving agility or resisting damage.

Gender Traits: Male or Female
None 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:

  • Children of the Storm: Children of the Storm tend be more grim and serious and have attitudes that are better suited to Cadelle’s violent pre-Covenant era. Their relationship with Children of the Sun is more protective than antagonistic, and they consider Children of the Sun to be lovable but dangerously naive. Children of the Storm can be found throughout the Orion Arm. This trait is worth 1 advantage to perception bids to sense danger and defense bids.
  • Children of the Sun: Children of the Sun are curious and light-hearted, and they love new experiences and new toys. They are citizens of the gentler and more idealistic Covenant, and it’s their mission to make the Children of the Storm lighten up and have a little fun. Children of the Sun are most often found in or working for the Covenant. This trait is worth 1 advantage to technology and education bids.
  • Neutral: You aren’t too optimistic or pessimistic or too cheery or humorless. 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:
    • Noble: You are a member of one of the Old Empire’s noble houses. This trait is worth 1 advantage to social and fighting bids.
    • 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-calerre 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: 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.

That’s about it for the calerre. Come back next week for the blood-drinking, Ancient-Egypt-and-Wild-West-obsessed chiroptim.

Meet the Calerre – Part 1

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Calerre: 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. Now that we’ve shown you how Covenant’s playable species will get their “racial bonuses”, let’s introduce you to them! The first up are the calerre.

Appearance: The calerre look reptilian, but they’re not. They have smooth yellowish skin, stubby tails, wide, powerful wings and heads with long, tapering muzzles. Their eyes are superficially similar to human eyes, but have no pupils.

Reproduction: Calerre are viviparous and sexually dimorphic. Men and women have some differences, but they’re mostly cultural (especially in the Old Empire) and insignificant from the perspective of game mechanics.

Biology: Calerre are warm-blooded, give birth to live young, and suckle their children with specialized saliva glands. In fact, the only effective difference between them and Earth mammals are a lack of hair or fur and a lack of mammary glands.

They do not have bones in their wings. Instead, they use hydraulic pressure to support and shape them during flight. This allows them to fold their wings under cloaks or coats during cold weather.

They are thinner than humans and lighter and have more efficient muscles, giving them them greater-than-human agility.

They experience pain and pleasure differently than humans. Their experience of pain is more clinical – more like a damage report than debilitating sensory input. Pleasure, on the other hand, is heightened. Therefore, they have a reputation for being both very sensual and very, very tough.

They have a distributed autonomic system and redundant organs. Their neurological system is also distributed throughout their bodies, giving them both conscious awareness of their bodily functions and, with practice, conscious control of their biochemistry.

Psychology: Their memories are encoded on the quantum level on the water in their body fluids, giving them perfect recall. This isn’t as desirable as it sounds, though, and much of their psychology is dedicated to dealing with unpleasant memories that they can never forget.

There is anecdotal evidence that calerre maintain some form of direct but subconscious communication with both their past and future selves. This has not been proved, however, and the mechanism behind it is unknown.

Lifespan: Calerre stop aging between 25 and 35. Their maximum lifespan is unknown, and possibly unlimited. However, they can die from almost everything else that humans can, including hunger, thirst, injury, and suffocation.

History: The calerre founded the Covenant approximately 120,000 years ago. It was one of the first democracies in the Orion Arm.

The more conservative and reactionary calerre left Cadelle as soon as they developed starflight. They are the ancestors of the Old Empire, which was founded approximately 10,000 years ago.

The Covenant and the Old Empire have a complicated relationship: often hostile, yet always yearning for re-unification.

Abilities: The calerre have three main species abilities.

  • Flight: The calerre use their wings for flight. They aren’t as maneuverable as the lighter chiroptim, but they are more powerful fliers.
  • Biochemistry: Calerre have access to their own list of body modifications, which include increases to their senses and resistances. They can even change their genders. Calerre can add, change, and remove these mods between chapters and, by choosing the right abilities, even during them.
  • Tanking: Calerre are probably the second best tanks in the game after a valka Battle Matriarch. They can either dodge-tank with their phenomenal agility or absorb damage that would take other species out of the game.

Handles*: These are single words that I use to try to get a handle on the calerre, hence their name.

  • Civilization: The calerre represent civilization spreading across the galaxy, both in its positive aspects (the Covenant) and negative aspects (the Old Empire).
  • Hope: If you can make it to the Covenant, you’re a citizen, and the calerre will fight to rescue and protect you.
  • Inclusive: The calerre in the Covenant bring in refugees from across the galaxy and from every species.
  • Idealism: The calerre in the Covenant deal with their long memories by not doing bad stuff that they’ll regret later.
  • Evergreeen: The calerre in the Covenant have an ever-changing culture and love new ideas and experiences. It’s a good way to avoid stagnation when you’re immortal.
  • Conservative: The calerre of the Old Empire deal with their long memories by freezing society in place. Change can force you to do things that you’ll regret later.
  • Honorable: The calerre in the Old Empire have a strong sense of honor. If someone loses hir honor, then you have an excuse to do whatever is necessary to deal with hir, which may help you deal with the memory of it later.

This post is getting pretty long , so I’m going to split it into two parts. Tune in for Part 2 tomorrow.

* Wait, didn’t I say yesterday that it’s bad to reduce a species to one word? Yeah, I did, but this is a starting point, not an end. Also, some these handles may seem contradictory. That’s a feature, in my opinion, not a bug. People and societies are contradictory. Anyway, contradiction produces tension, and stories need tension.

Character Creation Traits: Build a Better Alien

Covenant Game Design - Character Creation Traits: Build a Better Alien

(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 that the playable species in Covenant to have more depth than the “all X are Y” trope prevalent in science fiction and fantasy. Here’s how we plan to do it.

A player will build hir character from the ground up, starting with hir species and adding other details, like gender and the empire or “domain” in which they live. Each of these details is a trait that provides the player with advantages and disadvantages on bids during the game, as well as backstory and roleplaying hooks.
Here are the traits that a player can choose at character creation:

  • Species Trait: The character’s species (e.g., a human would have the Human species trait, a calerre would have the Calerre species trait, etc.). Hir species trait gives hir advantages for at least two kinds of bids. For instance, a calerre is agile and tough, so ze can spend hir Calerre trait on bids requiring agility or to resist damage. Note that ze can take traits for other species later. For instance, a calerre who has lived among or studied humans can take the Human trait, which will help hir when interacting with humans. However, hir species trait never changes.
  • Gender Trait: The character’s gender, including male, female, or nonbinary. Gender differences in most species, including humans, aren’t big enough to provide advantages or disadvantages for most bids. However, they can influence how ze is treated in different parts of the galaxy, like the fundamentalist Dominion and traditionalist Old Empire.
  • Outlook Traits: Each species has at least two competing outlooks, as well as a neutral outlook. A character’s outlook represents hir overall philosophy and how ze generally perceives the world, and it affects both what ze chooses to learn and how ze reacts to the world. A character can have up to two outlook traits: an outlook ze used to have and an outlook ze has now.
  • Domain Traits: The part of the galaxy that the character calls home. This trait gives hir 1 advantage to bids to know the politics and history of that domain. Hir domain may also give her access to other traits, like hir social station or the region in which ze lived, that provide their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. A character can have up to two domain traits: where ze used to live and where ze lives now.
  • Environment Trait: The environment in which a character grew up, such as a world with heavy or light gravity, a marginally inhabitable world, or on a spaceship.
  • Species-Specific Trait: Some species, like the thk’kok and valka, have traits to which only they have access. A thk’kok can choose hir nation, which is an ethnically and culturally similar group of tribes and villages, while a valka can choose hir caste or role in hir hive.

Now you know how to build a better alien in Covenant. Tune in tomorrow, when we introduce you to the architects of both the Covenant and the Old Empire, the calerre.

Alien Culture: You All Look Alike to Me

Covenant Game Design - Alien Culture: You All Look Alike to Me

(Be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast!)

Sean again. Let me ask the trekkies out there something – well, two somethings.

What’s the first word that you think of when I say “vulcan”?

What’s the first word that you think of when I say “klingon”?

I’m going to guess that most of you out there thought “logical” for vulcans and something like “warrior” or “warlike” for klingons.

Now, let me ask you something else.

What’s the first word that you think of when I say…

“Human”?

I don’t want a sentence or phrase. I don’t want three words, or two words.

Sum up all of humanity with one word.

I don’t know what you chose. Not that it really matters, because I’m going to guess that there’s a huge variance in what everyone reading this chose.

I’m also going to guess that the more self-aware of you out there felt pretty uncomfortable trying to reduce all of humanity – with all of its ethnicities, all of its national and regional identities, and all of its contradictions – down to one word. Not even one idea. One word.

That’s something that started bothering me… I’m going to say a decade or so ago, way before I started thinking about Covenant – why all the aliens in Star Trek were monocultures. All vulcans were this. All andorians were that. Their homeworlds were essentially one world governments with one culture, and if they managed to take over more than one planet, then that extended offworld, too: Romulan Empire, Klingon Empire.

Humans, naturally, were part of the only “good” multicultural faction in the galaxy: the United Federation of Planets. Also, naturally, they played an outsized role in the affairs of the UFP. That was partly because of limited makeup budgets and a desire to make easily relatable characters for a prime time audience, but still.

I don’t know as much about Star Wars. Since it’s more pulpy than Star Trek, though, I suspect it’s worse.

Sexy twi’leks. Shifty toydarians. Dirty jawas. Savage Sand People. Thuggish hutts. Bad-tempered wookiees. You get the idea.

I’ve seen this in roleplaying games, too. All elves are this. All dwarves are that. All half-orcs, halflings, gnomes, tieflings, dragon people, wolf people… they’re all easily summarized and monolithic. They may be separated into kingdoms, tribes, or hordes, but these are all culturally and politically identical.

Hence what I’m trying to do with Covenant: make the species that you can play and encounter a little less monolithic.

I’m not going to be able to make complete cultures. Cultures develop over hundreds or thousands of years, while I’ve been thinking about this universe for maybe two decades.

I’m also not going to be able compete with franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek. They have deep pockets to hire top-notch writers, armies of fans working for free to expand them, and too big a headstart on me.

What I can do is avoid the “All X are Y” trope in my own game. That’s what I’m going to do with the next few posts here. I’m going to give some of the nations, ethnicities, and general outlooks for each playable species in Covenant, including the humans.

I hope you’ll stick around for it.

Pronouns in Covenant

Covenant Game Design - Pronouns in Covenant

(Be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast!)

Sean here again. So, we’ve learned that alien sexual cues may be incomprehensible and downright repulsive to other species. This has some surprising consequences, and it forces us to take a side on a contentious, real-life subject.

Dealing with aliens on a regular basis is more stressful than you think. That’s because you can never be sure of the gender of the alien to whom you’re talking. You can learn their sexual cues eventually, but in the mean time you’ll be pissing off a lot of people and possibly starting a lot of fights.

Now, add in aliens that can change their gender like the calerre, sequential hermaphrodites like the thk’kok, and all the posthuman madness that comes from genetic engineering, cybernetics, and body-jumping artificial intelligences.

To avoid these problems, Covenant citizens use genderless pronouns, at least until everyone knows what pronouns everyone prefers. These pronouns are ze and hir, and they are used this way:

Instead Of:Use:
“He flew away in his ship.” “Ze flew away in hir ship.”
“I tried to yell at him, but he was gone.” “I tried to yell at hir, but ze was gone.”
“He seemed pretty satisfied with himself.” “Ze seemed pretty satisfied with hirself.”
“He knew the day was his.” “Ze knew the day was hirs.”

We’re going to use these pronouns, too, in the game and on this blog.

It’s not just because we want to be respectful and polite. Covenant is to some extent not just a game about the Covenant, but a game from the Covenant. It carries some of the Covenant’s values with it, values that we hope to explore in future blog posts and podcast episodes.

We’re not saying that you should use these pronouns in everyday life. We don’t. Covenant as a game is filled with suggestions, not rules. You are welcome to use the suggestions that fit your gaming group’s play style and discard the rest.

These pronouns aren’t hard to learn, though. If you feel confused, don’t worry. We’ll include a link here to every blog post we write from now on.

We hope you’ll indulge us in this, and we thank you for your patience with us.

Alien Romance: Close Encounters of the Naughty Kind

Covenant Game Design - Alien Romance: Close Encounters of the Naughty Kind

(Be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast!)

Sean here again. Instead of writing a post on Covenant’s Trade language, like I normally do on Fridays, I want instead to continue talking about alien biology and communication.

Remember that photo of the female chimp that I posted back on Friday? It’s relevant to what I want to talk about today.

When a female chimp is in estrous, her genitals will swell and turn bright red. That’s absolutely sexy to male chimps, but absolutely repulsive to humans.

Now, chimps are one of humanity’s closest genetic relatives, if not the closest. Yet their sexual cues are incompatible with all of non-freak humanity.

Now, as biologist PZ Myers has pointed out, imagine the sexual cues of an alien – an organism that evolved on another planet, with an incompatible biochemistry and a thoroughly foreign perceptual apparatus and psychology.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the sexy aliens of Star Wars and Star Trek, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t, either. There’s nothing wrong with them, okay? They’re fun, they’re sexy, they conform to genre expectations… what’s not to like?

However, if you want to make things a little more realistic, like we do, then you’re going to have to get rid of sexy aliens. Just like faster-than-light travel and the Force, they’re not possible.

Love between species is going to be complicated, too. I’m not saying it can’t happen. However, the suite of emotions and drives that one species calls love may be nonexistent or completely different in another. A human may feel trust, concern, and even a feeling of comfort with their alien partner – or partners – but they should probably expect to receive either nothing or a different and incomprehensible suite of emotions in return.

Sex is going to be a problem, too. They’ll probably incompatible sexual organs or practices, and they’ll definitely have incompatible sexual biochemistry. We can assume that intercourse is going to involve an exchange of bodily fluids and, between alien species, those fluids will either be completely inert or toxic.

We can also rule out hybrids like Star Trek’s Spock and B’Elanna Torres. That’s because genetic material will also be incompatible between alien species.

I’m not saying that love and sex are impossible between species. Humans get creative when they’re horny, and there’s no reason to assume that aliens wouldn’t be equally creative. Nature will put up a lot of obstacles, but I’m confident that we’d overcome them if we really want. We just might have to suit up like we’re going on a moonshot first, is all.

And if we want kids with our alien lover, or lovers, we could always adopt. The desire to have children is a powerful one, so much so that some mammals that lose their own babies will adopt children from other species. It’s hard to tell the effects that being raised by alien parents will have on a kid but, if the parents are attentive and careful enough, I don’t see why it can’t be done.

This post is getting long enough, so I’m going to end it here. There’s one more thing I want to touch on here, though. Tune in tomorrow for our very first weekend post to find out what it is.

Alien Communication: Darmok at Tanagra

(Be sure to tune in to the latest episode of the podcast!)

Sean here again. Yesterday, I was talking about how aliens would have incompatible biochemistries with humans. That’s not the only way that they’d be incompatible, though.

Aliens with different anatomies and biochemistries will, by extension have different neuro-anatomies and neurochemistries. They’ll have evolved in alien environments with alien stimuli and hazards, so they’ll have alien ways to perceive them, alien ways to communicate them, and alien ways to deal with them on a societal level.

These differences will have profound effects in alien psychology. They will go way beyond the “all X are Y” tropes of popular science fiction – you know, “all vulcans are logical”, “all klingons are warlike”, “all wookiees are bad-tempered”, etc. In fact, there’s a very good chance, if we ever do meet aliens from another world, that we won’t be able to communicate at all. The differences in how we perceive the world, process those perceptions, and then communicate them may be so profound that there is no overlap, nor any possibility of overlap.

However, I think that communication is possible, as long as there’s some common ground. If an alien hangs around humans long enough, then it’ll learn that, in some cultures, patting a human on the back soothes them. It may not understand why, but it’ll know how to get a desired reaction out of a human, and that’s good enough.

That goes the other way, too. I could learn that if my alien buddy’s splorgis is flungilating, then I should stimulate its third glorpicle (but NOT his second – that’s a good way to start a war). I may not understand that this deflungilates its florble cycle to release more gwee-gwee into its yurgle sacs. All I know is that it’s less likely to sink its fangs into my neck when I do that. Again, that’s good enough.

I’m not artistically brave enough to turn Covenant into Arrival: The RPG. That might be fun, or at least entertaining to watch, but that’s not what I want to do with this game.

Anyway, I don’t think the differences will be that severe. The Covenant is old enough for its member species to learn how to deal with one another.

There will still be misunderstandings, though. These can be represented by disadvantages to bids when talking to or bargaining with NPCs from other species, and these can be lessened by giving your character the right traits or abiliies. Needless to say these disadvantages probably won’t apply to the PCs interacting with each other. We can probably assume that the PCs know each other well enough to overcome them, and even if they don’t, using Diplomacy checks on your fellow players is never a good idea.

There is one last thing that I want cover about alien relations, though it’s probably the one thing that most game groups will do their best to avoid: love, sex, and reproduction. Tune in tomorrow for that. It’s going to be awkward.

Alien Biology: What Are Little Aliens Made Of?

Covenant Design - Alien Biology: What Are Little Aliens Made Of?

Sean here again. Before we talk about the biology of life from other planets, it’s helpful to know a little about the biology of life from Earth:

  • It’s comprised of hydrocarbons, the most important of which are proteins.
  • It stores genetic information in long, replicable hydrocarbon chains consisting of diribonucleic acid or DNA.
  • Much of it – not all, but a lot – uses oxygen to “burn” ingested food.
  • It uses water as a solvent and to transport food, oxygen, and other compounds.

We assume that alien life will follow these rules for the same reason we think sapient aliens will look like humans with funny foreheads. Here’s the problem with that, though:

  • Life could be based on elements other than carbon, such as silicon, boron, or sulfur.
  • Carbon-based life could use some method to store genetic information besides DNA, or it could reproduce with some method that doesn’t require genetic information.
  • It could use other gasses for respiration, like methane or sulfur. Or its metabolism might not require the respiration of gasses.
  • It could use other liquids as a solvent, like ammonia. Or it might not need a solvent at all (e.g., artificial intelligence).

And that’s assuming that alien life would even use chemistry as we know it. Robert L. Forward’s novel Dragon’s Egg has life on a neutron star whose biochemistry is mediated by the strong nuclear force instead of the electromagnetic force – in other words, via neutrons and protons instead of electrons. That’s about as alien as you can get.

You can quickly develop analysis paralysis from this, because the possibilities for alien life are so numerous. It helps to put some restrictions on your thinking.

For instance, it turns out that both oxygen and water are abundant in the universe. Oxygen is highly reactive, which is one of the reasons why life on Earth uses it (the Great Oxidation Event being the other). Water is an excellent solvent, and it has a large range of temperatures at which it’s a liquid. Since humans evolved to use both oxygen and water, we can also assume that aliens that use these evolved in environments that humans won’t have too much trouble surviving. Even if our aliens are sapient fish, we can still interact with them via a submarine or SCUBA gear.

Since roleplaying games are all about interaction, we can therefore start putting some bounds on our speculation. Covenant’s aliens (unless they’re artificial intelligences) will breathe oxygen and use water as a solvent, and they’ll do it in environments that humans can easily survive.

I’ll admit that this is just intellectual backfilling to justify the aliens that we already came up with. But it works, so we’ll go with it.

But what about food and medicine?

Even if our aliens are carbon-based, they might not be made up of molecules that we could metabolize, like proteins and carbohydrates. That means we can’t eat their food, use their medicine, or get high on their drugs. At best, a human would vomit up or excrete them. At worst, they would kill a human.

There’s silver linings to this: you probably don’t have worry about catching the alien version of the Black Plague or the clap, and alien predators will probably ignore you, since you don’t smell like food.

However, it complicates a roleplaying game like Covenant:

  • Food has to be coded for each species.
  • Medicine and drugs could harm or kill an ally from another species.
  • Things that many players like to ignore – like keeping track of rations and medicine and, by extension, inventory and encumbrance – become incredibly important.

There’s a reason that many science fiction franchises handwave these issues away. Will Riker can tuck into a plate of delicious wriggly gagh. Dr. McCoy’s job isn’t twice as hard because he has to treat a human ship with a vulcan first officer. Jabba the Hutt can sell “spice” without worrying about who exactly is going to use it.

Covenant, on the other hand, is all about the difficulties in aliens interacting. We want them to be able to interact without too much difficulty, which is why they all breate gaseous oxygen, drink liquid water, and evolved on planets where those two can be found fairly easily. But neither should it be too easy, either.

This extends to social interactions, including love and sex. Tune in tomorrow for more.

Radio Free Covenant: Episode 3 – We Get Letters

Episode 3 – We Get Letters

We put the call out to our friends to find out what they wanted in a roleplaying game, and today we respond! Tune in to learn what they want and how (or if) Sean and Sazzy can incorporate their requests.

We round out this week’s episode with what we want in an RPG. We are the ones making Covenant, after all.

Oh, and if we missed you this week, we’ll respond to you next week. Send us a message 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, Fascism and Noodles.


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.