Meet the Humans – Part 1

Covenant Game Design - Meet the Humans - 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 your distant descendants! That’s right, we’re talking about humans today. More below the fold.

Continue reading “Meet the Humans – Part 1”

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.