Meet the Valka – Part 1

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Valka - 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:

Now it’s time to meet the final playable sapient species, the valka! More below the fold.

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


Appearance: The valka are humanoid and well-adapted to a subterranean existence. Their heads have short muzzles with triangular ears and large, light-gathering eyes, and their hands and feet have thick, powerful claws for digging. Their tails are long and muscular and strong enough for them to lean on them like a third leg. Fine, downy fur covers their bodies, and long hair covers their heads, often dyed in radioactive colors and scuplted in hairdos reminiscent of Earth’s New Wave music scene.

Their feet are broad with three large toes and thick, leathery soles. Valka go barefoot whenever possible to be able to feel the terrain under their feet.

Their mouths are full of broad, triangular teeth with sawtoothed edges, with rows of replacement teeth behind them, like a shark. They loose their teeth often while eating and fighting, so most valka have snaggletooted-looking mouths.


Reproduction: Valka are viviparous and sexually dimorphic. Males and females have visibly different average sizes, as well as different average personalities dictated by biology.

Females give birth to babies encased in leathery sacs, which are tended in common creches. The children stay in these sacs for several days to acclimatize to local conditions before ripping their way out.


Biology: The most striking thing about valka biology is their sexual dimorphism. Men tend to be three to four feet tall, while women can be anywhere from five to seven feet tall.

There is also a small fraction of mutated females, the “Matriarchs”, whose growth hormones go haywire. They can grow to be up to ten feet tall and wide, with long arms. Their bones grow incredibly dense and often burst through the skins, especially along the spine, in armored plates, and force them into a stooped posture. Many use their knuckles to walk like gorillas.

Men and women also have the greatest personality difference between genders of any sapient species. Women tend to be more disciplined and aggressive, while the men tend to be more unruly, devious, and irresonsible, but also better with technology. Their fighting styles are different. Women will fight toe-to-toe and employ military tactics, while the men will prefer sneak attacks and sniping from cover to stand-up fights.

Valka blood uses hemocyanin instead of hemoglobin, turning it a striking bright blue color. Their blood is also thick enough that they don’t have to worry about blood loss even after losing limbs or severing major arteries.


Psychology: A famous sociologist once said of the valka, “It is generally agreed in my discipline that fully half of valka culture is an elaborate, millennia-long troll of the rest of the galaxy. The only thing we don’t agree on is which half.”
The valka are baffling to other sapients. They’re not just alien. They do things that seemingly don’t make any sense, even from the standpoint of survival. Their hives and ships will randomly spout lethal flames for no reason. Their favorite TV show can charitbaly be described as Super Sabado after a three-day crack-and-whiskey binge. They’re crazy, but it’s not the kind of crazy that’s threatening. It’s easy to let your guard down around them.

That’s the point. Most of their outward-facing culture is calculated precisely to give their enemies a false sense of security. They actually excel at deception, and their attacks are usually sudden and overwhelming.

This requires coordination between often hostile hives. Valka achieve this through a hivemind. All the valka in an area are in at least unconscious communication with each other and can share skills and information, increasing their overall intelligence. Some individuals, usually women, can even hack into the senses of other valka and issue commands mentally.

This hivemind has the side effect of creating a valka monoculture and reducing the value of individuals in favor of the hive’s welfare. Valka economy and politics tend to be communist, without money or private possessions.

Valka men and women who live in hives tend to go into heat all at once. For about three or four days during this time, the only three things that get accomplished are fucking, fucking, and more fucking. Hive valka therefore tend to have a clinical attitude toward sex and, outside of the monthly rut, are asexual. Valka who live outside the hives, on the other hand have more control over their sexual urges. These valka see sex as something to enjoy instead of a monthly routine that leaves you sweaty and exhausted.

Valka aren’t particularly expansionist. They are territorial and predatorial, though, and their high birth rate forces hives to go to war over dwindling resources and living space. Frequent lacks of factories and spare parts has forced them to become consummate tinkerers and kit-bashers, cannibalizing some of their gear to keep the rest going.


History: Valka don’t know this, but they are descended from therapods that evolved sapience in Earth’s late Cretaceous period. These proto-valka predicted the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, which wiped out 75% of life on Earth, and built generation ships to escape it. Before they left, they released a nano-swarm that erased all traces of their civilization, in order to give whoever came after them a fresh start.

The valka really didn’t have a plan beyond escaping Earth or a destination. Many of their personality traits, including their knacks for deception and tinkering, were developed during the flight from Earth. The cosmic radiation they encountered was higher than they expected, so they altered their bodies to withstand it, including changing their blood to use blue hemocyanin instead of red hemoglobin.

The valka tended to land their ships on their first habitable worlds that they encountered or even ran into. It’s believed that there are hundreds of lost hives spread all over the galaxy and even a few generation ships outbound in intergalactic space. A spread of these ships managed to stay together and form the Matriarchy. Once they landed, they were cannibalized for parts. Only a few artifacts remain from this period, and much of the technology is lost.

Not much happened after that. The Matriarchy was content to mine its own resources and keep to its corner of the galaxy. Their biggest act of diplomacy was a trade agreement and non-aggression pact with the Covenant.

This all changed in 1999 CE. Something happened in the Algol hiveworld that made the planet almsot uninhabitable and plunged the Matriarchy into civil war. This disaster also affected the valka hivemind, wiping out much of their technological and historical knowledge.

The Matriarchy barely survived this crisis. Approximately a third of its citizens died in the fighting, and the central government lost contact with many of its worlds. The Matriarchy of today is a shadow of its former self, with slavers and pirates preying on weakened hives and rumors of a blood cult sacrificing sapients to an unknown god.


Abilities

  • Natural Weapons: Valka have a variety of natural weapons, including claws and a bite laced with virulent bacteria. They can even weaponize their shit into a corrosive “assblast”.
  • Hivemind: All valka have access to a species hivemind. Characters who develop this ability can coordinate their attacks and gain the skills and even senses of other characters. Some valka can also extend these benefits to other species.

Handles

  • Hivemind: The valka hivemind is one of their most important features. No other species has anything like it. Because of it, the individual has almost no value in “traditional” valka culture, concepts like private property don’t exist, and the hive reigns supreme. Valka PCs, of course, don’t have to be a part of the hivemind, but it does isolate them both physically and psychologically.
  • Monoculture: We’ve taken pains to avoid species monocultures in Covenant. The valka are the exception to this, mostly because of their hivemind. Regional differences in their culture exist based on climate, relations with other species, and other factors, but there is a base culture to which they all seem to adhere, no matter where they are in the Orion Arm.
  • Savage: Humans respond to stress by toughening up. Thk’kok respond to it by adapting. Valka, on the other hand, become savage and violent. The Matriarchy includes many marginal worlds, and it still hasn’t recovered from the 1999 incident. As a result, the hives have turned to fighting with each other for scant resources.
  • Trolls: It’s very hard not to consider the valka as the jokey, funny species in Covenant, the way halflings or gnomes are often portrayed in Dungeons and Dragons. This is what they want, of course. Half of valka culture is a long con on the rest of the galaxy to make them seem weak and inept. Because of this, many potential enemies overlook them, and the rest underestimate them.
  • Crazy: Of course, if they’re just pretending to be insane half the time, then they really are insane the other half.

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

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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