Meet the Chiroptim – Part 1

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Chiroptim: 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. Last week, we introduced you to the calerre (part 1 and part 2). Now it’s the chiroptim’s turn!

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

Appearance: The chiroptim evolved from vampire bats on an alternate-timeline Earth, which they call the “Old World”. They are thinner and shorter than humans and covered in short fur ranging from blonde to jet black. The skin is usually colored the same as their fur, and many will trim or shave their fur to show off tattoos. Chiroptim also have human-like hair on the top of their heads, which both men and women typically wear long.

Their eyes are similar to a flying fox’s eyes, which large colored irises that cover the entire eye and white sclera that are only visible when they are afraid or open their eyes wide.

Chiroptim have two membranous wings covered in thin hairs like peach fuzz that stretch from waist to wrist. Each wing has five thin “fingers” that they use to shape their wings during flight. Chiroptim wings are loose and flexible enough to be stuffed into coat or spacesuit sleeves.

Chiroptim have large bat-like ears that they take great pride in. Many will pierce and even tattoo them. Some have chiroptim lose pieces of their ears during fights; this marks you as a fighter in Ya’os culture.

Reproduction: Chiroptim are viviparous and sexually dimorphic. Men and women have some differences, but they’re mostly cultural (especially in feral communities) and insignificant from ther perspective of game mechanics.

Biology: Chiroptim are mammals, much like humans. The big difference – aside from the ears, wings, and fur – are their diet.

Chiroptim are strictly blood drinkers. They can drink other liquids and chew the juice out of fruit – chiroptim love honey and apples, preferably both – but derive most of their nourishment from ingested blood, known as “heme”. They concentrate heme proteins by urinating out the excess water, something chiroptim call “blood piss” or “dinner piss”. Chiroptim gastrointestinal tracts are specialized to hold several pints worth of heme proteins.

Much of chiroptim behavior is governed by their stomachs. They get more and more short-tempered and emotional the hungrier that they get. Opponents can tap a hungry chiroptim’s species trait to give him 1 disadvanatage to all bids until he eats. Starving chiroptim have even been known to attack friends and family for their blood.

Psychology: Chiroptim evolved alongside humans, so their psychology is surprisingly similar. The main difference between them is the chiroptim predatory instincts. They have to derive their nourishment from living animals. They don’t have to kill them, and most subsist on livestock blood or even cloned blood. But they evolved with the need to hunt other animals. That skewed their perception in surprising ways. Now everyone, even friend and lovers, are potential meals. They may not think it consciously or act on it, but it’s always there just under the surface.

Their predatory instincts also force them to go armed at all times. They are convinced – again, on a subconscious level – that they may need to run down and kill their prey in order to feed, and so they always need some lethal weapon, and sometimes two or three, on them at all times. A unarmed chiroptim who feels naked and vulnerable and will suffer from anxiety until ze can get his hands on a weapon, any weapon.

The Ya’os ethnic group, from which many chiroptim in the Covenant universe are drawn, have a “separate but equal” view of the sexes. Men and women have equal responsibility for child rearing, household duties, breadwinning, and community defense. However, men take care of their own business in a semi-formal “men’s council”, while women have a “women’s council”. The man’s council and woman’s council overlap only in affairs of government and defense. Nonbinary chiroptim, as well as chiroptim who don’t hold these beliefs, can become “contraries” or sacred clowns who exist outside this system. These attitudes are dying off in the Covenant but still hold sway both outside the Covenant and in “feral” or traditionalist societies.

Families are far more fluid in Ya’os culture than in Western human culture. Children are raised within large extended families by grandparents, which give the parents the time and energy to work. Children are gnerally kicked out of the house at 15 or so, and many young adults band together into temporary “packs” to share housing and food costs.

Chiroptim are obsessed with ancient Egypt. In the Old World, Anubis is a chiroptim-headed god, not a jackal-headed one. Because of this, Egyptians revered the chiroptim right up to the time of the Crossing. The Ya’os still consider dynastic Egypt to be a golden age.

Chiroptim tend to be more fragile than humans and thus prefer ranged combat, preferably with guns. Few ages revered the gun quite like the Wild West, so the Ya’os are also obsessed with all things cowboy and western-related.

Lifespan: Maximum lifespan in the Old World was 150 years, though few ever reached that point. Anyone who lived past 50 was considered a wise old man or woman. This has been extended to a theoretical 1,000 years in the Covenant, but remains approximately 150 outside of it.

History: The chiroptim evolved from vampire bats on an alternate timeline Earth. They were able to enter the Covenant universe during an interdimensional event about 400 years ago that they call the “Crossing”. The Earth in that timeline, which they call the “Old World”, had a similar history to the Earth of the Covenant universe, but had only advanced to the 1930s at the time of the Crossing.

Most of the chiroptim in the Covenant universe came from Tayassam, a chiroptim neighborhood in the Five Points area of Lower Manhattan. Most of these chiroptim, in turn, are from the Ya’os ethnic group, which was stretched most of Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa. The Ya’os were often the lowest of the low and, during the time of the Crossing, were suffering under the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany alongside the Jews. They survived by clustering together into armed ghettos filled with hidden weapon caches, bunkerized buildings, and traps for unwary invaders.

The interdimensional bridge has since collapsed, but the chiroptim don’t miss the Old World. If anything, they’re trying to re-open it so that they can bring over more of their people. The Covenant has embraced them and benefitted from their undying endurance and fierce sense of resistance.

Abilities: The chiroptim have three abilities.

  • Flight: The chirtoptim use their wings for flight. They are more maneuverable in the air than the heavier chiroptim, but aren’t as powerful.
  • Predatory: Chiroptim are predators. This gives them species abilities like doing extra damage or gaining advantages to fighting bids, and advanced characters can drink blood from enemies to regain Discipline. They only feel comfortable when they’re armed, because their instincts tell them that they may need to hunt at any time. If they are unarmed, then their opponents can tap their Chiroptim trait to give them 1 disadvantage until they can arm themselves again.
  • Organization: Chiroptim, especially the Ya’os, are pack hunters. Perpetually outnumbered and outgunned, they fight back by banding together and organizing, whether through unions, crime organizations, or partisan groups. They can gain abilities that give their allies bonsues to weapon damage, advantages to bids, and access to black market gear.

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

  • Endurance: The Ya’os have outlasted the world’s greatest civilizations as a people. They have suffered, and terribly, and they will probably continue to suffer. But they will also survive.
  • Predatory: Chiroptim can’t get their food from anything but living animals. Everyone who isn’t a chiroptim is a potential meal on some level.
  • Librarian: The Ya’os gather knowledge and techniques deemed heretical or criminal by other civilizations. This “forbidden knowledge” is jealously guarded and has turned the tide of more than one battle in their favor.
  • Humor: Sometimes the only way to deal with the tragedies that the Ya’os face is to laugh at it. They are consummate pranksters and comedians. Anyone who does fit in their society can become a “contrary”, a sacred clown who trades cultural power for the ability to speak truth to power (and not be killed for speaking it).

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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