Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bulldogs! Review Pt 1a - Custom Species Creation

Sorry for the lack of posts recently; the dreaded specter of Real Life has made itself known! That being said, gaming and posting should resume normalcy here at Station53. 

We had the first planning session for our new Bulldogs! game recently via Google Hangouts, and worked on building the world we'll run adventures in. As I want the game to have all the elements the players want to see, as opposed to a top-down, GM-driven design, we met and tossed out ideas, which will be the subject of many upcoming posts. For this post, however, we'll look at some of the species we created for the game, as the designers of Bulldogs! Brennan Taylor and Brian Engard have made the process easy and organic, as I outlined in the previous post.

We decided on a number of key phrases and themes we wanted for our game world (which I'll detail in a later post), but decided we wanted a galaxy rife with sentient alien species. Surprisingly, Humanity was a topic of much discussion - specifically, whether they should be present or not. Its an interesting question, as Humans are common in just about all Space Opera fiction out there, and in gaming terms, are mechanically function as the 'base-line' species all others are modeled against. Eventually, we all agreed that, while they should be present, they should be 'just another race.' Humanity, in our game, is not the ubiquitous species seen in the Star Wars/Star Trek universe, but more in line with how they are depicted in Mass Effect. Mike Lindsey decided we should call them Marisuvians as a clever reference to how they are typically used in such games.

Armed with a few basic ideas of what we wanted to see and a few images, we got together to bounce ideas off of one another, and I'm pretty happy with what we came up with.


The Mogri

Art courtesy of Tsvetomir Georgiev.
"I hear that each one has the memory of their ancestors: based on my experience with 'em, their ancestors must have also been serious hard-asses too." 
- D'mbar Riff, Cynyu colonist

Two thousand years ago the warrior-race of Mogri discovered their sun was dying and they refocused their society around preservation and memory. Their geneticists found a way to code fragments of memory into their genetic code, and their industry and government poured their resources into developing massive ships that would allow their race to take to the stars in search of a new home.

To the Mogri, the past is alive. The view reality as an illusion, and embrace the idea that entropy conquers all. Matter decays and time cannot be stopped, so they keep their culture alive in the minds and songs of the people. To the Mogri, adding their verse to the Grand Music is as important as anything else they do. As a result, they are fatalistic, insular and grimly determined as a species. Their language does not have words that refer to the first person singular, and they are prone to poetic flourish and lyricism.

The long-lived Mogri are compactly and powerfully built, with piercing eyes and unrelenting endurance. Their skin varies in pigment across the color spectrum, and some rare individuals show a pattern of spots on their faces. These Mezzi are gifted with the ability to see the future, and are raised to be leaders, bards, and battle-commanders.

Mogri history is passed down orally, and can take years to recite in full. Each youth is required to recite the exploits of his or her lineage in full when coming of age. Each youth is trained as a warrior and a bard, to better create the memories that will become legend and pass them down to their ancestors.

Due to their singular focus on their own society, Mogri are a bit xenophobic in the galaxy - except when it comes to warfare. At various times they have taken entire systems until their Mezzi determine their fate lies elsewhere; their unpredictability coupled with their relentless determinism keeps the rest of the galaxy on edge.

Mogri Names
Mogri names tend to be short and are recycled, as the individual is only a small part of the living whole. They do not have surnames, as they are one family, but notable individuals may sometimes have an epithet bestowed upon them by the community.

Male Names: Rastul, Ronni, Troni, Turvell, Nakenn, Sini
Female Names: Raalee, Kanndr, Bronnr, Astarli, Durhedr, Drakhudr

Typical Mogri Aspects

Mogri Species Abilities [-2 Refresh]
Iron Will: [-1]
To the Mogri, to endure is to survive, and their resilience is legendary. Mogri gain one additional stress box.

Ancestral Knowledge: [-1]
Life ends, but memory is immortal, as it is coded into the Mogri’s genetic makeup. Once per session a Mogri can tap into these memories, gaining a +2 to any roll.


“I worked with a Zephron once, years ago. She worked hard and played hard. Once she flipped and ripped a guy’s throat out. Still, you couldn't ask for a better person to be around.”
- Aurin Perfect, Marisuvian Epidemiologist

Art by Marciolcastro
The Zephrons are a four-limbed species from the planet Tonawanda. They evolved into an alpha predator, coupling an athlete’s physique, and an impressive array of razor-sharp teeth. They are expert hunters due to their ability to change the color of their skin to match their surroundings and the ability to psionically track their prey.

They form strong bonds with their pack-mates, and elect their leaders through shamanic rituals. They have a strong love of the natural world. In their mythology, everything has a soul, from a rock to a being to a nebula. The Zephron believe that it is possible to communicate with these spirits. Hunting, such a large part of their culture, is seen as a sacred ritual in which the spirits of prey become a part of the predator. In practice, this can be problematic, as they tend to have an instinctual binary view of other beings, sizing them up as either predator or prey. Its not unheard of for a Zephron to suddenly turn on someone and attack for seemingly no reason when this instinct is triggered. Still, they are loyal, dedicated companions, and popular media is rife with stories of Zephron sacrificing themselves to protect their friends.

Only fifty years after developing FTL technology and joining the wider galaxy, their planet was terraformed by the mysterious Ghost Virus. It is now a nearly barren planet, essentially devoid of any life that is not infected, and has been quarantined by the galaxy. Nearly all of the 7 billion Zephrons living on Tonawanda were wiped out, leaving only a few million scattered about the galaxy. They tend to make excellent team-mates, and they excel in virtually any role asked of them. The surviving Zephrons have adapted an elegiac temperament, and work well alone. They are among the galaxy’s best planetary explorers, assassins, biologists and bounty hunters.

Zephron Names
Zephron names typically have word-roots that correspond with natural elements in their native tongue. When translated into the galactic standard language (Oyl), they tend to be descriptive, such as Moon Laying Eggs or Makes No Noise.

Male Names: Catahecassa, Tiraq, Keokam, Pipaluk
Female Names: Antinanco, Nuka, Tamaya, Hokolequa

Typical Zephron Aspects:

Zephron Species Abilities
[-3 refresh]
Natural Weapons [-1]
The ferocity of an 'unarmed' Zephron is legendary. Zeprhons are armed with teeth and claws that inflict Damage: 1.

Psychic Tracking [-1]
The Zephrons are unparalleled at finding nearby prey. When the target of a tracking attempt is within 5 miles, you may reduce the difficulty to track the target by two shifts.

Chameleon [-1]
Zephrons have the ability to change the colors and patterns of their skin to blend in with their surroundings.
They gain a +2 to all hiding-related Stealth checks.

Disease Vulnerability [+1]
This species is particularly susceptible to disease, as witnessed by the devastation the Ghost Virus caused on their planet.. Members of the species suffer a –2 penalty when attempting to resist the effects of diseases. Additionally, the GM can compel this attribute as if it were an aspect once per session. If the player wishes to avoid this compel, she must spend two fate points to refuse.

Extra Speed [-2]
When moving as part of another activity, a member of this species may move one additional zone without taking the –1 penalty for a supplemental action. If this ability is taken at a cost of –2, Zephrons gain an additional +2 to Alertness for the purposes of determining initiative.

Psychological Weakness [+1]
Zephrons are hard-wired predators, and have a tendency to view others as prey. The GM can compel this attribute as if it were an aspect once per session. If the player wishes to avoid this compel, she must spend two fate points to refuse.


Original artwork by Jeff Simpson

"Sorry I'm late. Damned Marisuvian compliance officer just wouldn't stop talking." 
- Sebek Yog-Gloon, Squillo lawyer

Originally hailing from the planet Ganhedhen, the Marisu are primates with adaptations favoring packs of long-range predators/scavengers (bipedal, little body fur + sweat glands, advanced language centers). They are, however, omnivorous and can survive on a variety of diets, provided that it is rich in fats and proteins.

The Marisu are 'new' race in Known Space; their recorded civilization is only 7-10k Standard Cycles old, and they have only been space-faring for the past three-centuries.

Since Marisu intelligence is largely a product of linguistic adaptation, their understanding of the cosmos is via stories; indeed, it is common when other races encounter a Marisu they are only able to explain new concepts to them in the form of a story. At first blush this trait can make the average Marisu seem rather slow; but in actuality they can be just as cunning and dangerous as any other race in Known Space. This trait also makes the Marisu excellent storytellers, and this is an ability that has made them welcome in places otherwise hostile to other species.

Legends tell of a Xigg warlord named Zi'rar who held a Marisu female prisoner captive for 3+ cycles, each night delaying her inevitable execution providing that she would tell him a new tale. Another, less attractive trait of the race is their avarice; the history of their young civilization has thus been defined by the acquisition of excessive resources by an elite few to express dominance over the majority. Too much is never enough to a Marisu - they seem to always and ever want more.

What might seem like ostentatious displays of wealth and/or exceptional greed to other races is commonplace among their kind, in a complex and never-ending game of one-upmanship that only their own kind (maybe) truly understands.

Marisuvian Names
Marisuvians tend to have evocative names reflecting their personalities, and have a family name that denotes an event or characteristic particular to their family’s history.

Male Names: Blake, Martok, Zack, Zap, Dirk
Female Names: Aurora, Crystal, Dawn,Krishna, Tanya
Surnames: Brannigan, Day, Sunflame, Sparktracer, Callisto

Typical Marisuvian Aspects

Marisuvian Species Abilities [-1 Refresh]
Marathon Training [-1]
You know how to conserve your energy when undergoing lengthy athletic activity. You may use Athletics instead of Endurance when making tests against fatigue; in most other cases, you may complement any Endurance rolls with your Athletics.

Psychological Weakness [+1]
Marisuvians are insatiable when it comes to material possessions and acquisition of status. The GM can compel this attribute as if it were an aspect once per session. If the player wishes to avoid this compel, she must spend two fate points to refuse.

Narrative Communication [-1]
When a Marisuvian has the chance to use storytelling in a conversation, they gain a +2 to place a Rapport maneuver.