This article originally appeared in The Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society, Issue #17
by Phil Masters
[Editor's Note: A large part of this article originally appeared in Issue 17 of The Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society in 1983. The GURPS stats, of course, are new.]
Art by andi jones
The Jgd-ll-Jagd are a gas-giant dwelling intelligent species originating on a world on the coreward edge of the Imperium. Although technically a minor race, they possessed very advanced technology even before they were first contacted by Vilani explorers in about -4200; in the period since, for obscure reasons, they have never employed jump drives of their own, although their slower-than-light ships have ventured many parsecs from Jagd, and Jgdi colonies are spread across several subsectors. Jgd have very occasionally traveled further afield than this in heavy life support units carried by bulk transporters, and Jgd travelers have even collaborated with Humaniti on a few exploration and resource-exploitation activities.
BiologyJagd is a gas giant, slightly smaller than Sol's Saturn (110,000 km diameter). As such, its atmosphere is hundreds, if not thousands, of miles deep, and consists mostly of hydrogen with an admixture of other gases; at the vast pressures of its depths, the gas becomes liquid, then a metallic solid, but these conditions are too extreme for life.
Generally, gas giants are unsuitable for the evolution or continued existence of life, but in a few cases, organic molecules have not only formed, but developed into something more. The conditions under which this becomes possible are not entirely clear, and some scientists insist that the intervention of highly advanced races (perhaps the Ancients) must have been required, but it appears that a sufficiently high level of heavier gases permits the formation of complex molecules, a layer or two of dense clouds of various chemicals (such as ammonia) can give them an environment in which to evolve, and a continuous "rolling boil" of activity in the planetary atmosphere prevents heavy compounds from sinking into the lethal depths too easily. Multi-cellular gas giant life often develops internal "gas-bags" of near-pure hydrogen at above ambient temperatures, enabling it to float around like balloons; this is certainly the pattern on Jagd.
The Jgd have roughly spherical bodies, about nine or ten feet in diameter, dotted with clusters of sensory cells, and with three long manipulative tendrils distributed regularly round the "equator". The densest mass of sensory organs, plus a large number of manipulative "feelers" and feeding structures, are sited on the lowest point of the body. The species' internal structures are based on a number of thin-walled compartments, one of which (near the body center) houses the brain (or at least the largest neural nexus), but most of which are empty but for hydrogen secreted by the body chemistry. Control of secretion rates and partially-directed release of gas give the Jgd considerable control over their atmospheric buoyancy and direction of flight, but these "living balloons" are still rather susceptible to atmospheric currents; it is generally believed that accidental population redistributions were common in primitive Jgdi society, leading to loosely-bonded communal organization and exceptional homogeneity in Jgdi culture.
Insofar as such terms have meaning in this context, the Jgd seem to spring from omnivore/intermittent stock. There is only one sex; genetic interchange is achieved by air-borne spores, and reproduction is achieved by a sophisticated form of binary fission. Their senses are based on extreme awareness of atmospheric vibration, plus very limited response to a very wide range of electromagnetic waves. Jgd can communicate limited information over tens of miles, using pitch-modulated ultrasonic "whistling," but the primary form of "speech" involves electrical impulses transmitted by direct physical contact. It is thought that this allows the transfer of very large quantities of information at the semi-subconscious as well as the conscious level, further enhancing the homogeneity of Jgd culture.
The Jgd live extremely long lives; apparently, no condition of "old age" exists, although eventually a fissioning Jgd undergoes division of the parent brain, rather than generating a new "child" cerebrum. Average life of an identifiable Jgd individual, barring accident, is approximately 630+ standard Imperial years.
SocietyThe Jgd developed their basic form of technology when they learned to manipulate crystalline matter which they derived from various communal microscopic life-forms that they found among the ammonia clouds of their homeworld; crystallography is as central to their technological history as metallurgy is to Humaniti's. They developed activities akin to farming rather late, but their social systems are immensely refined, and spring from the need to organize for food-gathering, crystal-seeking, and hunting. The basic social unit is termed the "hunt" by human xenologists, and consists of a cooperative body formed for a specific purpose -- not always anything as short-lived as a hunt for food. Many "hunts" are millennia old, but even disregarding natural mortality, the membership is extremely flexible, with individuals leaving and joining quite frequently in most cases. Hunts to some extent resemble human businesses, trusts, or colleges, or Hiver nests, but each hunt actually holds a rather deeper role in Jgdi culture than this implies, in a way that only the Jgd themselves really comprehend. The crew of a short-range spaceship will usually comprise one hunt, while an interstellar craft will have three or four "active" hunts aboard, plus the social nucleus of several more that become active as and when the ship establishes a colony or base on a new world. The system is remarkably flexible but robust.
The other key element in Jgdi psychology is what is usually referred to as an obsession with balanced exchanges, apparently running at least as deep as human curiosity, Aslan land-hunger, or Newt orderliness. A Jgd is almost physically incapable of "unilateral behavior." For example, the Jgd never initiate exploration for its own sake, but only send ships where there is a very high probability of finding exploitable resources, or of establishing a colony that might eventually send vessels back to Jagd. This obsession, apparently linked to the inherently bilateral nature of Jgdi conversation, has resulted in almost all contact between Jgd and other races taking the form of trade. It also causes the Jgd to operate a peculiar (and slightly brutal-seeming) legal system; theft is always punished by fines, violence by violence, and so on (in short, "an eye for an eye"). It is even hypothesized that the Jgd commenced interstellar travel when and only when they were first contacted by Humaniti because only then was a degree of symmetry implied by the activity.
The homogeneity of Jgdi culture is a major factor in Jgd society, but it must not be overstated. Jgd are discrete and independent individuals, with distinct personalities and powerful personal drives; they have an idea of private property; they have personal violence, if not wars. Nonetheless, it is important to note that education -- in the sense of a transmission of data -- is extremely easy for them; hence almost any Jgd can employ almost any Jgdi device or technique with at least minimal competence. This does not imply that the race lacks individuals specializing in particular fields of competence, merely that total incompetence in any field is rare.
Jgd In Interstellar SocietyJgdi thought is alien to all other races' intelligence; hence, communication is a persistent problem. The obvious difficulty of simply conversing is generally solved by use of powerful human or Jgdi computer translators, but even these tend to struggle with many concepts; nor is pronunciation of synthesized phonemes always easy. (The name for the race used by humans is a human corruption of something produced by an early Jgdi machine.) In general, relations with Humaniti and other races are restricted to trade and informational exchanges.
The Imperium classifies the Jgd as a friendly associate species with autonomous government; actually, no formal pacts exist, although relations are in a state of stable equilibrium. Jgd-inhabited systems will always be "patrolled" by a number of large and powerful vessels (see below); these rarely take much interest in human affairs unless Jgdi interests are threatened. The chief point to note in such systems is that fuel-skimming a Jgd world is extremely unwise; shock waves from the pass may cause severe damage to the beings and their environment, and their response is certain to involve high-energy weapons fire. For this reason, Jgd systems are well-marked with navigational beacons.
Other races get on with the Jgd even less well than does Humaniti (although there are Jgd colonies or outposts in or near K'Kree space; the K'Kree generally find these beings too alien to contemplate in detail, and hence cannot decide whether to worry about their diet); mankind at least has long experience with the race, and the Jgdi exchange-obsession corresponds effectively to the human tradition of mercantile economics. There are no records of the Jgd hiring alien mercenaries for any but short-term jobs, or of small Jgd groups or individuals settling for long with other races save out of necessity.
The Jgd failure to construct jump drives is a mystery to most humans; the task could easily be performed by Jgd technology. The usual explanation is that the race actually refuses to do so because it is impossible to enter into an "exchange relationship" with hyperspace, making the subject anathema to them. Other popular arguments hold that jump travel is somehow dangerous to them, which is clearly true in some ways; after all, the Jgd travel units occasionally loaded onto human jump ships carry extremely heavy insulation (though this is more a matter of preserving their internal environment in the conditions of a human ship).
A few xenologists have acquired a slightly deeper grasp of Jgdi psychology, and recognize the greater problem here. What they have come to understand is that Jgdi behavior evolved, from a very early stage, as a set of responses to the stormy, energetic climate of their homeworld atmosphere. Some scientists say, not entirely as a joke, that the Jgd-ll-Jagd had developed a detailed understanding of Newtonian dynamics millions of years before they developed sentience. Thus, Jgdi physics is not so much an advanced study as a refined instinct.
This makes their science very powerful in some ways, but terribly limited in others. Their grasp of action and reaction, force and flow, is immediate, but any theories that go beyond this -- particularly theories built on asymmetry or paradox -- offend them at a level below thought. Human minds have enough trouble encompassing quantum physics or jump-space theory; to the Jgd-ll-Jagd, they are the essence of insanity. Worse, a member of the species cannot feel safe if it does not have a clear and continuing comprehension of the physics and dynamics of its environment; anything else is deeply horrifying. And it cannot not think about this.
In other words, to the Jgd-ll-Jagd, jump travel is about as pleasant as a human would find being swung over a pit full of jagged spikes, on the end of a fraying rope, for several days continuously. The only members of the species to travel thus are slightly crazy volunteers, and receive the nearest approximation their metabolism permits to anesthesia -- and they still sometimes suffer something like nervous breakdowns thereafter.
Jgd in PlayJgd should only be played and handled as NPCs; in the unlikely event of any PC interacting with one on a personal, violent level, a typical specimen has ST 12, DX 10, IQ 12, and HT 12/25. Their tough outer integument gives them PD 2 and DR 5, and they can have a Move and Dodge of about 4. Their internal gas-bags make them highly vulnerable to penetrating attacks under some circumstances, but their internal structures are complex and robust; they never simply "burst."
Jgdi encountered on worlds where they can live unprotected (about 5% of gas giants) or with minimal protection (another 15%) will generally have only the equipment their current circumstances demand. In other cases, Jgd usually use small sealed-environment capsules with heavy heat shielding and armor, each holding 3-10 Jgd; less often, they wear cumbersome personal protection comparable to battle dress, complete with strength augmentation. An armed Jgd -- a rare sight, which will only appear for a good reason -- usually carries plasma or fusion guns, with a few lasers or gauss guns when the situation demands something relatively subtle.
Jgdi skills are generally specific to Jgd technology and society; the main points to note here are that all members of the race have at least basic knowledge of most Jgdi devices, while specialist Jgd tend to be very well-trained; ships and weapons are seemingly invariably handled at skill levels of 15+. Beyond this, the referee should assign whatever skills seem appropriate.
Jgdi ships can be treated as TL11 constructions with TL12 power plants and maneuver drives; no jump drives are ever fitted. Even their smallest in-system shuttles are in the 2,000 ton range, while their interstellar craft range up to 400,000 tons or even more; Jgd like a lot of personal space in their crew quarters, have no equivalent to low berths, and make shameless use of very large fusion power systems. If fitted, weapons are generally bay-mounted TL12 fusion guns, along with possibly some TL11 repulsors, nuclear dampers, and some meson screens; missiles and sandcasters are rare, and limited to TL9 quality.
Refereeing JgdJgd are utterly alien beings, and may be quite tricky to referee. (Jgd player-characters are out of the question). The main problem is their apparent obsession with balanced exchange in all relationships; practical environmental factors must also always be borne in mind. Nonetheless, the race is neither irrational nor erratic, and basic impulses such as self-preservation are common to Humaniti and Jgd alike.
Player-characters may encounter Jgd in a variety of circumstances. Trade is an obvious possibility; Jgd understand the concept of money, but prefer barter-type systems, and the more symmetrical the exchange the better; a party seeking low-temperature crystals will probably achieve the most return if they trade with industrial diamonds or refined titanium. Partnerships in exploration are possible, but harder to negotiate.
Jgd never, ever voluntarily travel by jump ship except in insulated capsules; if asked why not, they will be evasive, and what they do say will defeat any translator. (They are not lying or prevaricating; they are struggling to express a deep-seated sense of wrongness.) One kidnapped into such a trip will almost certainly go into a state of neural shock the instant jump space is entered, rapidly deteriorating into death. (And few hospitals have personnel with the proper expertise or properly heat-insulated equipment to perform delicate medical work on a Jgd.) Bear in mind that Jgdi "vengeance" will subsequently be certain and thorough. On the other hand, Jgd slower-than-light ships, taking Jgd lifetimes to cross the interstellar void, are strange and interesting encounters for players. Jgd colonies and outposts should be noted as precluding hasty fuel scavenging.
Finally, note that human social skills are of little use when dealing with Jgd, although high levels of Xenology may help; perhaps the most useful skill when dealing with the species over an extended period are Computer Programming or Electronic Operations, as translator systems may often need fine-tuning.
Article publication date: September 3, 1999
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