Steve Jackson Games GURPS – Generic Universal RolePlaying System

Siffle

(From SFL, or, "Swashbuckling Fire Lizards.") Despite the reference to Anne McCaffery's creation, these little critters do not come in spectrum-colors - instead, they have markings that bear an amazing resemblance to those of Terrestrial angelfish. Commonest is black-and-silver or black-and-pale gold marbling (allowing humans to learn how to distinguish between individual Siffle bodies), but pale gold and silver-with-black-stripes are also found. Go check out your local aquarium / pet store for more specific ideas.

To mess with the stereotype of reptilian races as "cold-blooded" and analytical, I think Siffle are as randy as dolphins, though more likely to keep to their own species. (Though a Siffle with Lecherous would probably consider other races . . . The size difference may be troublesome, of course.)

Siffle are Hive-Minded, but each individual is also borderline sentient (around IQ 8). Two Siffle who are bonded (i.e., raised together from hatching, or one raised the other from hatching) have IQ 9, and so on. As their telepathic bonding will only work up to 9 individual bodies, they are restricted to IQ 17. (If more IQ is bought, assume that the individual IQs are exceptional - say, IQ 9 for some bodies. Or the groupmind could pay for the extra IQ, and pay a 10 point Unusual Background (extra member(s)); the Unusual Background might suffice up to 99 extra members (!!), per member, per five extra members, etc., depending on what the GM wants.)

Members are replaced or new members are added by taking a hatchling and raising it in constant contact with members of the group-mind. Hatchlings (which may be either gender) are often obtained from other group-minds, to keep genetic diversity. Continuity of the group-mind is pretty much eternal, unless an accident wipes out the entire group. New group-minds are formed by two or more group-minds raising several hatchlings of rougly the same age - the lack of constant contact with only one other group-mind prevents the forming of telepathic bonds, except with the other hatchlings.

Solitary adults cannot bond with another group, though they may raise hatchlings and bond with them normally.

If one member is separated from the others for a long period of time, it will be able to rejoin the group-mind later (unless the rest have maxed out on members!), though it might need a few days to do so. If the member was very young, there is a chance it wasn't properly "bonded" - the GM might want to make an IQ roll with some bonus (or not) to see if it can reintegrate. Critical failures indicate the minds are now too different to join.

Groupminds separated for many years, who have added new members, are likely to be too different to merge (not to mention too big). Critical successes should be required here.

A Siffle or Siffles raised by another race (especially a non-telepathic one) would also become new individuals, though some kinds of Telepathic bonding (Mindlink, at the least?) might occur if the foster-parent had that psionic ability. At the least, an isolated member would be very gregarious.

When Siffle are out of range of the group-mind (or if the other members are asleep), they're down to their effective skill, and a fraction of their skill-points equal to 1/<number of members> (if less than 1/2 point in a skill, they're down to default).

[Example: A group with 3 members (IQ 10) has 6 points in Tracking, for skill of IQ+2. They split up to search for a lost child, and one gets out of range. It now has IQ 8 and 6/3 points in Tracking - 2 points, for Tracking at IQ level. The other two bodies are still in range of each other - they have IQ 9 and 6 *2/3 points in Tracking: 4 points, for a skill of IQ+1.

Example 2: The group has First Aid at IQ, for 1 point, when they're together. The lone Siffle finds the lost child, but she's got a broken arm. It tries to think of what to do, but when it's away from the group, its First Aid skill only has 1/3 of a point in it! That means it has the skill at default of IQ-5, or 3! Fortunately, the other two bodies have split up, and one gets into range - now they have 2/3 of a point in First Aid, rounded down to 1/2 point. Only a skill level of 9, but that's enough to suggest that they should call for a helecopter rather than try to move the youngster themselves.]

(Physical skills are also subject to this point-dividing: while the reflexes may be trained, a less-intelligent member won't think of creative things to do as easily, or remember some techniques as quickly.)

This means that a Siffle can keep watch over "idiot lights," while the other members sleep (a useful evolution for guarding the nest), but it will have to awaken the other members to know what to do if one starts blinking red. Also, the one who stays awake will have to sleep sometime. If Siffle do sleep all at once, they are prone to sleep-walking, due to those above-mentioned evolutionary habits (nest-guarding).

Their low ST means that they have a hard time carrying weapons, and finding melee weapons that do any damage is hard. Therefore, their melee weapon of choice is the Force Sword, which does impressive amounts of damage independant of ST! The sight of a Siffle clutching a force sword in the middle of a corridor, wings spread and smoke curling from its nostrils, can be very impressive - even when the viewer realizes how small the Siffle is. (Siffle have about a four-foot wingspan, and are somewhere around five feet long, counting the entire length of tail and neck.)

While Siffle can breathe fire at an opponent 3 hexes away, it costs one point of fatigue per breath and only does a single hit of fire-damage. With their low ST, they can't do that much. One still doesn't want to take a gout of flame in the face, though . . .

Siffle may have a level of Early Maturation and Short Lifespan on the individual bodies, but we haven't decided on that one yet.


Siffle cost 30 points.

Attributes:

ST: 4 (Recoil x4; Nothing heaver than 9 lbs, 4 lbs flying; SS+10; 2 lbs melee = 2h) [-50]
DX: 13 [30]
IQ: 10 (8) [-]
HT: 10/5 [-25] (For the Reduced Hit Points -5, shown here.)

Advantages:

Unaging (the group mind - the bodies die eventually) [15]
Winged Flight [30]
Decreased Life Support x1 [10]
Manual Dexterity +1 [3]
Telepathic Mindshare (hive mind, IQ 8 [+1 per member], 2-9 members, telepathic, raise new members from eggs; skill points divided between members when out of range, <.5 in a skill = default) [42] {I think this is range of one mile, but have to check my notes.}
3D Spatial Sense [10]
Breathe Fire (1 fatigue/hit of damage, 3 hex range, DX roll to hit) [5]
Doesn't Sleep (all at once; awake member has individual IQ) [5]

Racial Skill:

Flight Skill @ DX+2 [.]

Disadvantages:

Inconvinent Size (very small) [-15]
Fragile [-20]
Xenophilia (+1 reaction to strangers & on Fright Checks; even when fear is smarter . . .) [-5]
Sleepwalks (when all members are sleeping) [-5]


Potential personal disads for a group-mind might include things like Odious Personal Habit: Constant Mating (yes, with "itself"), Curiosity, Practical Joking, Cowardice (for small groups), Overconfidence, and Impulsiveness (it's a major nuisance to lose a member, but not the end of the mind).

Potential advantages include Common Sense (especially for the older minds), Psionic Powers (give them Teleport, and they're really fire lizard-like!), Double-Jointed, and above-average Appearances.

Siffle make good pilots, if they have access to equipment that fits their small size. (Neural jacks for piloting may not work, or may require the whole group to be jacked in at the same time - GM's option.) They are often used for scouts or guards - or spys! They really love First Contact experiences.

If desired, different character sheets can be done up for the individual bodies, which may very well have different DX, ST or HT scores! One member might be Double-Jointed, while another has High Pain Threshold. (Average the costs of all the body-tied attributes, advantages, and disadvantages - skills and the racial cost don't get altered. Remember that if you build Super-Siffle and balance it with five Wimpy Siffles, the GM is justified in finding something fatal to happen to Super-Siffle.) Changes in attributes will mean that that particular body will have more benefit from points put into physical skills! Points in physical skills are divided amongst individuals, same as the mental points, though. (Super Siffle may be great at flying, but it still needs brains to remember or think to try some stunts.)

It's a good idea to have several columns for skill levels, so one doesn't have to do the math every time a member wanders out of range or takes night-watch.


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