An alternative campaign for Celtic Myth
by Stephen Kenson
Art by Glenn Kristoffersen
Macha stood on the bridge of the Mannanan MacLir as the klaxon alarms sounded all around her. She watched on the viewscreen as the bulk of the Fomorian ship drew closer and closer.
"Our shields are down, Commander! Weapons-systems are off-line!" the weapons officer called out.
"Tell the crew to prepare to repel boarding parties," Macha told the communications officer. She turned to Connor, who stood with his eyes closed in concentration, an ogham stone held between his hands.
"What can you tell me?" she asked him.
"The Fomori are difficult to read, Commander," the druid's voice seemed to come from far away as he concentrated his mystical senses on the other ship, "but I can sense three boarding parties massing near the airlocks. They will attempt to take the ship, but I don't think they are planning to take any prisoners."
Macha had thought as much. She ordered Connor to coordinate efforts to protect the crew from any magical assault that the Fomori might try and bring to bear while she drew her own glaive and went to lead one of the parties protecting the airlocks. There was no way that she was allowing the Fomori to take her ship and she planned to defend it like a true Celt.
The GURPS Celtic Myth worldbook presents material for gamemasters to create new campaigns based on the ancient stories and legends of the Celtic peoples. One of the many crossovers described in the book is transplanting the culture and mythology of the Celts into a far-future Space campaign. This article describes a science fiction setting based on the stories and personalities of Celtic myth that gamemasters can use for just such a campaign.
The New Book of Invasion
The history of the Celtic Alliance begins on Earth. Centuries ago, a philosophical movement developed in Europe around the works of several major artists, social scientists and thinkers. This neo-Celtic movement, as it became known, was founded on a deep respect for the traditions and mythology of the ancient Celts. The neo-Celts attempted to preserve, and in some respects re-create, all of the many aspects of ancient Celtic life and to integrate those ideals with the tools and techniques of modern life.
After many years of trouble on Earth, the majority of the neo-Celtic movement decided to depart their home world and seek to establish a colony of their own where their way of life could be developed free of the cultural conflict that plagued them. A great "sleeper ship" was outfitted for the journey with almost all the colonists had, entrusting their entire future to their chances at establishing a successful colony.
The trip to their colony did no go as the colonists planned. A navigational accident caused the ship to be thrown off course while the colonists were in cold sleep. Miraculously, the change in the ship's course sent the colonists to a star system that offered them opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. Many of the Celts credit their incredible good fortune to the will of the gods, the luck of the Irish or, later, to the possible intervention of the Shidhe.
The neo-Celtic colonists landed on the third planet of the star system they named Danu after the great mother goddess of Celtic myth. They found the planet inhabited by a race of humanoids that appeared virtually identical to humans, whom the Celts came to call the Firbolg. They established peaceful relations with the primitive Firbolg and began to colonize the four inhabitable planets of the Danu system, which they named after the Four Great Cities of Celtic legend: Gorias, Findias, Murias, Falias. The colonists called themselves the Tuatha de Dannan, the "Children of Danu," and began to settle in to their new home.
Several generations after the settlement of the Four Worlds, the Tuatha encountered the Shidhe for the first time. Sightings and legends of the strange luminescent beings had been reported since the first colonization of the Danu system. The Firbolg considered the "shining ones" to be gods that their tribes worshipped, but their existence was not established until a company of the Shidhe appeared in the Great Hall of Tara during the crowning of High King Finn MacDoughal to speak a prophecy that Finn's line would lead the Tuatha to greatness and would face great trials in the generations ahead. Since that time, the Tuatha have attempted to communicate with the Shidhe through both technology and magic but have only achieved brief and inconclusive contact.
More than one hundred and fifty years after the colonization of the Danu system, the Celtic Alliance faced their first great threat. A race of alien humanoids that the Celts call the Fomori sent an invasion fleet to the Four Worlds to claim them for their growing Empire. The Tuatha fought to repel the invasion, despite being outnumbered by the Fomori fleet. The warrior queen Macha MacDoughal led the forces of the Tuatha to victory, driving the Fomori fleet back beyond the asteroid belt known as Danu's Wall. The Fomori have been enemies of the Tuatha since that day and continue to wait for the time when they will be able to invade again and take the prize jewel that is Danu for their own.
Last year, in the beginning of the reign of the High King Conal MacDoughal, the latest of Finn's line, the Celtic Alliance has been contacted by an exploration ship from the Terran Federation, an alliance of colony worlds centered around Earth, the first contact with Earth in nearly two hundred years. The Celts are considering the possibility of an alliance with their Earth cousins, but many still harbor ill feelings based on the history of the Celts leaving Earth behind. Fomori spies and saboteurs attempt to prevent the alliance at all costs while the mysterious Shidhe remain silent.
The Danu System
The star Danu is a G-type yellow star, similar to Earth's sun, located some 2,000 light years away from Earth. The system has a total of six planets, four of which are capable of sustaining life.
The innermost planet, Brigid, is an airless world with surface temperatures hot enough to melt metal. The outermost planet is Annwn, a small frozen world named for the land of the dead. Annwn has a thin atmosphere that has toxic levels of chlorine and other gases and its surface is covered in frozen gas. The planet is uninhabited, although it has become the location for Fomori spy missions and hidden pirate bases in the past. Tuatha ships regularly patrol Annwn to check for any possible incursions into the Danu system.
The inner five planets are separated from Annwn by an asteroid belt that is known as Danu's Wall. Tuatha scholars speculate that the asteroid belt is the remains of a seventh planet in the Danu system that was destroyed millennia ago, possibly due to the actions of the Shidhe. Some of the larger asteroids in the belt are mined for minerals and contain small colonies of miners. The miners are something of an odd lot, superstitious even for the Tuatha. They believe that there are Shidhe that appear from time to time in the mines and among the asteroids, sometimes playing dangerous games with the miners and even leading them astray.
The asteroid belt is ringed with small asteroids that have been hollowed out and made into floating military platforms for the defense of the Danu system against incursion, especially by the forces of the Fomori. These early-warning stations are manned by Celt warriors and armed with massive particle cannons and force screens for defense.
The Four Worlds
The inner four planets of the Danu system are all capable of supporting life, some of them through the terraforming efforts of the early Tuatha settlers and, some suspect, because of the intervention of the Shidhe at some distant point in the past. The four worlds are named for the four great cities of Celtic myth: Gorias, Findias, Murias and Falias.
Gorias, also known as the "Land of Fire," is a world of jungles and hostile deserts. It's close proximity to Danu and its minimal axial tilt makes Gorias a very warm planet. The northern and southern hemispheres are tropical and daytime temperatures at the equator can rise over 40 degrees Celsius.
The jungle portions of Gorias' continents provide a wealth of plant and animal species, as well as herbal materials and unique biochemicals. Some sub-tropical regions nearer to the poles have been cleared for farming. The planet's deserts are harsh and inhospitable and have been left to themselves. There have been scattered reports of sightings in the equatorial deserts that might be Shidhe activity. The High King is considering the possibility of sending expeditions into the desert to study this possibility, but thus far it hasn't been a significant enough occurrence to rate such study.
Called the "Crown of Danu," Findias is considered by most to be the most beautiful world in the system. It is also the most Earth-like of the Four Worlds. Findias has five major continents, Ulster, Connaught, Munster, Leinster and Meath, all with Tuatha settlements of one sort or another. The largest northern continent, Meath, is the home of the city of Tara, the seat of the High King of the Tuatha.
Findias the home of the native humanoids of the Danu system that the Tuatha call the Firbolg. The Firbolg inhabit Ulster and Meath, with only a few scattered tribes on the other continents.
Murias "the Cauldron," is a largely water-covered planet, with numerous small island-like continents, none larger than the British Isles on Earth. The great mystery of Murias is that it appears to have at one time supported some kind of civilization. There are ruins of small cities and structures scattered over the planet's land masses and several that have been discovered sunken miles offshore. Most of the ruins are stone constructions with little or no indication of any advanced technology. The stone structures could have been built by a culture as early as Bronze Age in development. The fact that some of the ruins are under water suggests that Murias may have suffered a major climactic change that caused a rising of the planet's sea level, but there is no real indication of what, if anything, caused the ruins on the planet to become uninhabited. The planet's complex systems of seven small moons and the strange tidal effects caused by them may also have been responsible.
More mysterious than the ruins is the island that the Tuatha have named Tir Bo Thuinn, "The Land Beyond the Wave," off the coast of one of the larger land masses. The island appears to contain an example of an ancient city, like the ruins found elsewhere, but perfectly preserved. Unfortunately, Tuatha scientists have not been able to examine the ruins on Tir Bo Thuinn because the island is surrounded by some unknown kind of barrier, known as the Veil. This invisible wall harmlessly blocks the passage of any person, vehicle or probe that attempts to approach the island.
It is suspected that the ruins on Murias may be the remnants of an ancient Shidhe culture, or perhaps those of another race the Shidhe transplanted to Murias like the Firbolg. Some even speculate that Murias might be the Firbolg home world and that the Firbolg somehow migrated to Findias during a deluge that sank most of the great land masses, perhaps with the aid of the Shidhe.
Cold and wintry for most of its year, Falias is a rocky and inhospitable world that the Tuatha have nonetheless made into a thriving colony, based primarily on the world's rich mineral and geothermal resources. The people of Falias are a hardy breed and consider the other Tuatha to be somewhat "thin-blooded" for not being raised to deal with the harsh winters that they are accustomed to.
The wilderness of the Falian mountains and rocky plains are inhabited by a variety of animal life adapted to the cold and harsh environment. Rock bears, Falian wolves and great furred cats live there as well as hardy mountain goats and sheep introduced by the colonists.
The Tuatha De Dannan
The society of the Tuatha de Dannan is modeled on the ideals and cultural heritage of the ancient Celts, with some concessions to modern thought permitted by the Tuatha's founders. Generally speaking, the neo-Celts are a proud and honorable people who value personal honor, bravery, beauty, cleverness and wisdom. They are pioneers and explorers by nature, which is why they chose the lives of colonists rather than living in relative comfort on Earth.
Largely speaking, the Tuatha are also romantics. They recognize the importance of science and reason and make good use of their technological prowess. At the same time, they also acknowledge the mysterious nature of the universe and make use of psychic training, intuitive thought, inspiration and ancient magic. To the Tuatha, the universe is still a place of wonder and magic, where anything can happen and nothing is really impossible. This makes them a rather credulous people, who are not easily surprised. This is one of the reasons that the Tuatha accepted contact with the Shidhe so easily.
An important neo-Celtic tradition is observing the custom of gesas. A gesa is a personal or cultural taboo or restriction. Sometimes it is also a part of a person's fate or destiny. Gesas can have positive and negative aspects and important people have correspondingly more important gesas. For the most part, gesas play a ceremonial role for the Tuatha. They are the oaths and other taboos observed by members of the druidic and warrior orders as well as royalty. Many Tuatha believe that gesas regarding destiny do tend to come true. Whether this is merely a myth or the result of the Celt's Second Sight or even the intervention of beings such as the Shidhe is unknown, but a great many Tuatha do end up fulfilling the gesas concerning them in one way or another.
The High King
The ruler of the Tuatha is the Ard Righ, the High King. Each of the Four Worlds is ruled by a King (Righ), one of whom also holds the title of High King. The position of High King is hereditary, but it is also an elected office. The royal families of the Tuatha choose to elevate a family to the position of High King and can decide to remove that privilege and grant it to another family if they are in unanimous agreement. The MacDoughal line presently rules the Tuatha de Dannan and Findias from the Throne City of Tara.
Druids and Bards
As the primary practitioners of magic, Druids hold a place of high esteem in Tuatha society. They are keepers of lore and wisdom, scientists, magicians, judges, scholars and religious leaders. The training to become a druid is arduous, taking twenty years to reach the rank of Master and become a true druid. Their training includes study of law, history, science, astronomy and magic. Both male and female Tuatha can become druids.
The Grand Druidic Order comprises representatives from all of the Druid Orders in the Danu system. Each world has several Orders of its own. In general, the Orders generally cooperate with a minimum of politics. Each Order is controlled by a Grand Master and the Arch-Druid of the Grand Order is elected from among them. The Arch-Druid resides part of the year at the Grand College on Ynys Mon, the sacred island on Murias and the remainder in the throne city of Tara.
Closely related to the Druids are the bardic colleges. Bards are given special status in Tuatha society, which respects and encourages its artists. They train intensively to perfect their art and are to a degree supported by Tuatha society, which offers a Bard common necessities in exchange for sharing their art with the world. The tests to attend a Bardic College are fiercely competitive and the journey from apprentice to Master Bard is a long one, usually taking nine years. Every three years, the High King appoints a Master Bard as the royal Bard, a sort of poet laureate whose role is to record the history of the Tuatha in art so that it will not be forgotten.
The Tuatha military is known as the Fianna. They are warriors of the first order, who upon joining the military break all of their clan and family ties and swear allegiance only to the Celtic Alliance. They promise to defend the Four Worlds and the Danu system with their lives if need be. The training to become a member of the Fianna is very through, and includes appreciation for the arts and culture of the Tuatha in addition to combat training. Both men and women are able to join the Fianna provided they pass the necessary physical and educational tests.
The Fianna maintain a fleet of starships that protect the system. They also man military installations on the Four Worlds and in the asteroids of Danu's Wall. They are also the ceremonial guards at all royal functions and protect the Kings of the Tuatha. The order is lead by a Commander-General who has officers beneath him who oversee the various branches of the order. The Red Brach is ground forces and domestic peace-keepers, the Silver Branch is space forces and the Golden Branch are royal guardians.
The Firbolg are the native inhabitants of Findias in the Danu system. They are a startling example of parallel evolution, Shidhe intervention or perhaps Fomori experimentation, depending on which theory you believe. The Firbolg are genetically human in virtually every respect. There are some minor genetic variations that are being closely studied by Tuatha scientists, but for the most part, they are human. They are capable of interbreeding with the Tuatha and since the colonization there have been a number of Firbolg/Tuatha interminglings.
The Firbolg were a primitive people when the Tuatha arrived at Findias, living at an Iron Age level with spears and early agriculture (around Tech Level 2). Because their name for themselves translated as "People of the Spear," the Tuatha took that as an omen and began calling them Firbolg (which means much the same in ancient Celtic). The planetary population of Firbolg was not large, perhaps 250,000 spread across the two most fertile continents of Findias.
When the Tuatha first arrived, they were greeted openly by the Firbolg, who believed the strange travelers to be emissaries from the Shidhe, who the Firbolg worship. When the Tuatha decided to colonize Findias, there were some conflicts with the Firbolg over land, most of which were settled with superior Tuatha technology.
Presently, the Firbolg live in peace with their Tuatha neighbors. Most of their communities still live as their ancestors did, but many are breaking away from the old traditions and living in Tuatha cities and attending their educational programs and even adopting their customs. This is a serious point of contention for Firbolg traditionalists. There is even a radical fringe movement to expel the Tuatha from Findias and reclaim the planet as an independent Firbolg home world, but it is small and largely powerless at present against the technological superiority of the Tuatha.
The Firbolg are characterized by traits of curiosity, honesty and a strong belief in the supernatural. They tend to take things a great deal on faith and are considered to be somewhat gullible by the Tuatha (and perhaps, by the Shidhe). They are a passionate people, with a strong stubborn streak where their beliefs and traditions are concerned.
The Firbolg are a peaceful people despite their warlike name. They live in a primarily agrarian society and hunt and raise domestic animals for food. Conflict between the tribes of Firbolg was rare because they were so spread out over the vast expanse of territory on Findias, but occasional skirmishes have been known.
The central element of Firbolg culture is their religion. They believe that the Shidhe, known to them as "the Shining Ones," are gods who dwell in an Otherworldly paradise. Firbolg shamans use trance, meditation, ESP and astral projection to gain visions from the Otherworld to guide their people along the correct path. Occasional appearances by the Shidhe over the years seems to have reinforced the Firbolg faith (intentionally or otherwise).
The Tuatha tend to treat the Firbolg as "country cousins," primitives that are in need of their guidance and support. There are many Tuatha who respect Firbolg culture and artistic achievements, but very few who consider the colonization of Findias wrong. A small number of Tuatha have suggested providing a greater measure of independence for the Firbolg. So far, no Tuatha has advocated abandoning Findias entirely to the Firbolg, at least, not in public.
The Fomori are a race of humanoids that hail from a world only a scant dozen light years from the Danu system. Fomor is a planet in orbit of a red supergiant star known as Balor's Eye to the Fomori. Centuries ago the Fomori possessed manned space-flight and even traveled to the Danu system. It is speculated that some of the peculiarities of the system that the Tuatha have discovered may be the result of ancient Fomori terraforming and genetic engineering.
About three hundred years ago, the Fomori civilization collapsed in a terrible civil war. Millions died as both sides unleashed terrible nuclear, chemical and biological weapons upon each other and the ecosystem of their home world was ravaged. When the dust cleared, both sides had nearly annihilated each other and were forced to set aside their differences for the survival of their species.
For generations, the Fomori struggled to rebuild all they had lost. The mutagenic weapons used during the war took their toll and later generations of Fomori were born with terrible mutations and genetic defects. The once-beautiful race became twisted and hideous and turned to their advanced medicine and skill in cybernetics to allow them to survive and continue to propagate. Survival of the race became the utmost priority and a ruthlessly militaristic and ordered society evolved from the chaos following the Great Conflict.
Eventually, the Fomori regained their spaceflight capabilities. By this time they had become a race of ruthlessly survival-driven cyborgs, twisted and mutated by the toxic environment of their home world, but adapted to survive and overcome the harsh conditions they lived under. The Fomori sent scout ships and probes to explore the surrounding systems and discovered the presence of the Tuatha in the Danu system.
After their first invasion attempt was repulsed, the Fomori attempted to open diplomatic relations with the Tuatha. At present, relations between the two civilizations are in a shaky state of peace as the Fomori use diplomatic measures to buy them time for new invasion plans and the Tuatha work to discover the Fomori's plans.
All of the Fomori are twisted and unpleasant to look at (especially to the Tuatha, with their cultural obsession with physical blemishes). The most severe physical deformities have been corrected with cybernetic replacements, but the overall results have no place for esthetics. Most Fomori will have one or more cybernetic parts, but these replacements generally only replace the function of malformed body parts.
The warrior class of the Fomori has extensive cybernetic replacements. They usually include bionic limbs with increased strength, sensory enhancements and weapon implants. Their skin is usually armor plated, making them dangerous opponents.
Some Fomori have the Talent and learn the skills to use it. These individuals are usually the most devious and dangerous of their kind because they have learned great subtlety in the exercise of their mental abilities. Rumors among the Tuatha abound that the ruler of the Fomori is their most powerful and Talented mind, a hideous creature that is little more than a brain hooked up to a vast array of life support mechanisms and psionic boosters that give its powers tremendous reach, perhaps even to the edges of the Danu system itself . . .
The Fomori are a race obsessed with their own survival. They have sublimated all individual desires and goals into this master plan. Individual Fomori are generally cruel and ruthless, unpleasant to those weaker to them and deferent to those with greater power. They do not value art, music or culture, having virtually none of their own.
The ecosystem of Fomor was devastated by war centuries ago. Most of the world is a blasted wasteland and the Fomori live in self-contained cities or orbital habitats. Fomori life would be considered stark and sterile by most standards, surrounded by life-sustaining machines and technologies.
The beings that the Tuatha call the Shidhe are a mystery to the inhabitants of the Danu system. So far as anyone can tell, the Shidhe are alien energy beings that inhabit the void of Otherspace, shaping the energy there to their will. They are capable of virtually godlike feats of teleportation, shape-shifting and energy projection. The Shidhe also appear to exist outside of the normal space-time continuum, allowing them to experience the past, present and future simultaneously in a way unknowable to humans. They are quite intelligent, but rather inscrutable as to their motives and their plans, if any, for interacting with the human inhabitants of the system. They are capricious at times and play games of illusion and deception with the unwary. For the most part they remain in their extra-dimensional domain and don't bother anyone.
Interestingly enough, the Shidhe seem to have taken that name from Earth mythology as their own and they are amazingly like ancient Celtic tales of the Fair Folk. Tuatha scholars have developed two conflicting theories on why this is so. One says that the Shidhe have no real form or imagination as humans understand it and they simply choose to appear in forms that the Tuatha can understand, drawn from their own mythology and that the real nature of the Shidhe is simply beyond human comprehension.
The more radical theory suggests that the Shidhe are some sort on ancient Precursor race that visited Earth in the distant past. Perhaps the travelers from the Four Cities were in fact Shidhe explorers who came to Earth and began the first Book of Invasion myth cycle about the Tuatha. If this is so, scholars speculate, then the Firbolg are themselves humans that were transplanted to Findias by the Shidhe for their own purposes. This would explain their amazing biological similarities to humans.
Unfortunately, whatever the truth may be, the Shidhe aren't telling. They seem content for the most part to watch and wait, although no one knows what it is they are waiting for.
The Tuatha have reached a high level of technological development. They are at which might be considered a "space opera" level of technology: with interstellar flight, force field technology, highly advanced computers and medicine as well as psionic techniques and technology. In GURPS terms, the Celtic Alliance and the Fomori are at Tech Level 11 (more or less).
Weapons and Armor
The most common personal weapons used by the Tuatha are the blaster and the force-sword. Tuatha blasters fire compressed particle beams and can range in power from a shock powerful enough to stun the nervous systems of most creatures to a blast able to punch through armor plate. The force-sword uses force fields to create an energy blade about a meter in length that can cut through most materials and armor. Force-swords and other hand weapons are used on board starships and space stations due to the danger of damage or even decompression from a mis-fired blaster bolt.
Tuatha combat armor is made from a bio-plastic developed from plant materials from Gorias that has a high degree of energy absorption and dispersal capability. The bio-plastic can be sculpted into a suit of plate-like armor with flexible joints. Tuatha armor is elaborately decorated with patterns and knot designs, many of which can be changed by the user of the armor to suit different occasions. Force shields (small, disc-shaped force fields) are often carried in combat as well.
With their cultural taboo about physical perfection, the Tuatha have developed an impressive body of medical knowledge. They shun the idea of bionic or artificial implants unless they are unavoidable. Severe injuries are usually treated with regenerative compounds and the use of clone organ replacements whenever possible. For the few individuals for whom bionic replacements are required, there is a cultural bias against attempting to conceal the nature of the replacement. Although most would think that the Tuatha would prefer to conceal a bionic limb (for example) beneath a layer of plastiflesh, those Tuatha who must have bionic replacements do not conceal their disfigurement. To do so would be a shameful attempt to conceal the truth. There is a growing movement by many of the Tuatha to overcome the old taboos against bionics, but things have been slow to change.
The Tuatha have interstellar flight capability via access to Otherspace, another "layer" of the space-time continuum where ordinary space is distorted and the speed of light is not a limiting factor. This should be considered a Hyperspace drive in GURPS Space terms.
Otherspace is a realm of primal chaotic energy inhabited by the Shidhe (see below) who do not appear to object to travel through "their" realm. With Otherspace travel, Tuatha and Fomori ships can reach travel speeds of up to one light year per day. A journey from the Danu system to Earth would take a little less than five and a half years at this speed.
With their knowledge of transmissions through Otherspace and sophisticated computer technology, the Tuatha have created a vast, virtually instantaneous information network that spans the entire Danu star-system. Some question has arisen about the possibility of Otherspace transmissions being monitored or altered by the Shidhe if they are themselves inhabitants of Otherspace, but none has happened to anyone's knowledge.
The Tuatha have made a science of developing their latent psychic abilities. The development and training of these abilities makes use of many of the ancient magical traditions of the druids, including meditation and a complex system of mythological symbols that allow the mind to focus properly. The training allows psychically gifted individuals to invoke their abilities to perform feats of telepathy, ESP and psychokinesis. In GURPS terms all of the "magic" used by the Tuatha is actually psionic ability brought out and developed through druidic rituals and mental training.
"The Talent," as it is known among the Tuatha, is still fairly rare. Perhaps one person in ten has a touch of the Second Sight while only one in fifty has any real measure of talent. Most such individuals end up joining one of the Druidic orders to receive training in the use of their abilities.
The Talent is more common among the Firbolg, possibly due to Shidhe tinkering (see below). Gifted Firbolg often become shamans of their people. In fact, much of the peaceful cultural contact between the Tuatha and the Firbolg has been from the Druids and the Firbolg shamans exchanging knowledge and techniques over the years.
Both the Tuatha and the Firbolg recognize the existence of ghosts. The Firbolg believe them to be spirits of the restless dead, returned to haunt the living. The Tuatha consider ghosts to be more of a psychic phenomenon, though no less real. They believe that certain people with the Talent (even latently) can create a powerful "psychic echo" when they die an especially violent or emotional death. This psychic force takes on a form like the person who originated it and can sometimes exercise psychic powers on the real world. Most ghosts are harmless specters who appear to warn or threaten, dealing with some task the person left undone. A rare few ghosts are dangerous poltergeists, but even these can be banished by adepts with the right psychic skills.
Occasionally, a powerful psychic impression will be left on an object belonging to the deceased. This object is usually something the deceased had in their possession when they died. Such an object can take on the personality and will of its owner and may even gain other unusual abilities from the psychic energy fused into it (see Willful Weapons, below).
Gamemasters should base Tuatha, Firbolg and Fomori characters in a Celtic Space campaign on at least 150 points to reflect their abilities. This makes for a fairly "realistic" campaign and characters. Larger point totals (from 200 to 500 points) can be used by gamemasters looking for higher-powered "space opera" campaigns with lots of cybernetics and psionic powers.
The Tuatha de Dannan, despite their somewhat vainglorious name, are as human as their Earth ancestors, if more sophisticated in their use of technology and magic. Generations of advanced medicine and challenging life have made the Tuatha a strong and capable race. With their advanced medical technology and their cultural taboo about physical perfection, the Tuatha have virtually eliminated any sort of physical birth defects among them. The gamemaster should discourage characters from having physical disadvantages that wouldn't exist in Tuatha society, like crippled limbs or blindness, without a very good explanation.
The Firbolg are genetically human for all intents and purposes and have the same abilities as the Tuatha. Most Firbolg are Primitive (TL2, -45 points) and have a slight Social Stigma associated with them (second-class citizen, -5 points). Many Firbolg have been educated by the Tuatha and do not have the Primitive disadvantage, but their Social Stigma still lingers.
All of the Fomori are Ugly at least, some Hideous with their various deformities (-10 or -20 points). Most of their cybernetics only replace the function of malformed body parts and cost no points.
Fomori warriors will usually have the following bionics: Claws (15 points), Weapon Implant (blaster, 5 points), Bionic Reconstruction (25 points), Full Metal Jacket (PD 2, DR 6, 60 points) and Bionic Eyes with Light Intensification, Infravision and Polarization (30 points). Additional enhancements depend on the Fomor's rank and duties.
Fomori with the Talent will be well-trained in the use of their psionic abilities, especially telepathy and psychic vampirism. Most Fomori spies and saboteurs will be telepaths using their abilities to gather information and move undetected in the Alliance.
Earth humans have only recently discovered the Celtic Alliance and opened some sort of diplomatic relations. Player characters could be crew members from the first ship from the Terran Federation (or other Earth culture from the gamemaster campaign) to discover the Danu system or they might be part of a diplomatic envoy dispatched from Earth to secure relations with the Celts. Earth humans are probably in for considerable culture shock in dealing with the Celts and their own ways of doing things.
It is possible that Celtic technology is even superior to that of Earth. The Tuatha development of magic (psi) abilities may prove surprising if nothing else, and may be something that emissaries from Earth would like to gain the secret of.
Given their great power and inhuman nature, the Shidhe aren't recommended as player characters. They are far more of a plot device that the gamemaster can use to keep plots going in the right direction. Their mysterious motives and occasional tampering with mortal affairs can help to drive a Celtic campaign. For game purposes, the Shidhe are almost godlike beings and should be capable of whatever feats are required of them to move events along.
It is up to individual gamemasters to decide if the Celtic belief in gesas has any basis in fact. If gesas are real, then they should be taken as appropriate Advantages or Disadvantages as described in GURPS Celtic Myth (p.86-89). If they are nothing more than a part of Celtic culture and custom, then they should be considered Quirks, or possibly Delusions for a gesa that is likely to get the character into a lot of trouble (like the belief that you can become invulnerable by fighting stark naked and painted blue, for example).
The Talent 23 points/level
You have the potential to learn the mystic arts to perform amazing mental feats. Most people with the Talent are trained as druids or bards, or become shamans of their tribe if they are Firbolg.
In GURPS terms this advantages includes one level of each of the psionic powers from GURPS Psionics except for Electrokinesis and Teleport, which are unknown among the Tuatha and the Firbolg. Characters may purchase additional levels of the Talent or of individual abilities. It is quite common for someone with the Talent to be stronger in some areas than others, but those who have talent at all usually have at least a little of everything, the exception being the Second Sight (below).
Power levels greater than 15 in any aspect of the Talent are virtually unheard of, and overall Power levels of 8 or more are incredibly rare. The gamemaster is recommended to limit levels in this advantage. Practitioners of the mystic arts tend to be subtle rather than powerhouses.
Second Sight 15 points
You have the ability to sense immediate danger and see the future in a limited way. You can make an IQ roll to sense if there is any immediate danger present and (at the gamemaster's whim) you may receive visions of future events or sense the presence of destiny around some person or event.
This advantage is the same as the Danger Sense advantage. It means that the character has a touch of the Talent. Effectively, the character is a psi with ESP Power 5 and no training, gaining precognitive flashes at random in stressful situations. The Second Sight is common enough among the Tuatha and the Firbolg that there is no Unusual Background cost.
Spearman's Shield 40 points
You must have the Second Sight to have this advantage. As proof of the power of Celtic magic you can fight naked as warriors of legend and resist the attacks of many weapons as if you were wearing armor! Before a battle, your must remove your clothing (meaning this advantage isn't much use for fights in hostile environments where life support is required). When the battle begins, you spend a point of Fatigue and make an IQ roll. If it is successful, you gain PD 1 and DR 10 against all physical attacks. This does not protect against energy weapons. You must make another IQ roll every two seconds to maintain your protection. If you fail a roll, you may spend a point of Fatigue and make another IQ roll at -2 to re-establish your protection on your next turn. In either case, Spearman's Shield costs a point of fatigue each minute it is in use.
This advantage is in fact an unconscious and untrained Psychokinetic ability. You in fact have the PK Shield skill at IQ and Psychokinesis Power 20 (for PK Shield only) with the following modifiers: Extra Duration (+30%), Instantaneous (+20%), Only while naked in battle (-40%) and Unconscious Only (-20%). Tuatha scholars speculate that this unconscious psychic ability may have been the source of legends of Spearman's Invulnerability in the ancient past (see GURPS Celtic Myth, p.80).
Code of Honor (Celtic) -10 points
The Celtic code of honor as described in GURPS Celtic Myth (p.53) is common in the Celtic Alliance, especially among warriors. It consists of offering hospitality to those who need it, being as honest as possible and seeking vengeance for wrongs against yourself and your clan.
Social Stigma (scarred) -10 points
The Tuatha have a cultural dislike of physical deformity and imperfection. Anyone with obvious scars, deformities or bionic replacements is reacted to at -2, regardless of Appearance. Good Reputation, Charisma and manners can overcome this disadvantage with many Celts and their advanced medicine allows for the correction of most physical flaws.
Most of the new skills described in Celtic Myth exist in the Celtic Alliance, especially skills based around druidic or bardic lore. All of the psionic skills from GURPS Psionics are available to characters with the Talent except for Electrokinesis and Teleport skills as well as the Mindswitch skill. Psychics in the Alliance and among the Firbolg generally tend to be more skilled than powerful and are forced to rely on subtlety and skill rather than brute force.
Although a rare phenomenon, Willful Weapons (as described in Celtic Myth and Pyramid #14) do exist in Celtic Space. They are generally the result of psychic wielders impressing their personalities into inanimate objects upon their deaths. Most willful weapons in Celtic Space will have gesas based on the manner of their original owner's death, such as seeking vengeance against the killer or his clan or race. Such items are often considered cursed by the Tuatha, but may be preserved as heirlooms or treasures if their abilities are valuable and their gesas not too obvious. Some willful weapons remain undetected as such for many years.
The Danu System
Gamemasters with access to GURPS Space can use the following as a reference for the Danu system:Star Name: Danu
Biozone: 3.1-4.7 AUs
Inner Limit: 0.1
Number of Planets: 6
PLANET Orbit Distance Type Gravity Atmosphere Moons ============================================================================== Brigid 1 0.6 Rockball 0.80 None None Gorias 2 3.1 Earthlike 1.02 Oxygen-Nitrogen 2 small moons Findias 3 3.7 Earthlike 0.98 Oxygen-Nitrogen 1 medium moon Murias 4 4.0 Earthlike 1.00 Oxygen-Nitrogen 7 small moons, faint ring Falias 5 4.6 Earthlike 1.04 Oxygen-Nitrogen 1 large moon Danu's Wall 6 5.2 Asteroid Belt - - - Annwn 7 7.4 Rock/ice ball 0.75 Trace None
Gamemasters can use the Celtic Alliance as the basis for a Celtic Space campaign or as an expansion to an existing Space campaign. The player characters could be Tuatha from the Four Worlds, part of the Firbolg tribes or explorers from Earth who have just discovered the Danu system (or even a combination of all three!). Adventure include contacting the Shidhe, fighting the Fomorians, traveling through the asteroid belt, keeping the peace with the Firbolg and exploring some of the unknown areas of the Four Worlds and the Danu system.
An exploration ship from Earth (or an Earth-Federation/Empire) discovers the Danu system and is greeted by a Celtic Silver Branch starship in space. Both sides are initially curious and cautious, with the Celts still recalling the prejudice that caused their ancestors to choose to leave the home world behind. The Earth explorers should be amazed to find a thriving human civilization in an unknown sector of space. So begins the slow process of welcoming the new visitors to the Danu system and the beginnings of diplomatic relations between the Celtic Alliance and their Earth cousins. The new contact will have a number of challenges on both sides: cultural and historical differences to overcome as well as possible interference from the Fomori or even the Shidhe. Would a peaceful Earth Federation find the treatment of the Firbolg reason enough to deny membership to the Celts? Would the Alliance even want to join a larger Earth-centered political body? The player characters may be able to decide the political fates of both nations.
Even in two centuries, the Tuatha have not explored all of the Danu system and many areas of the Four Worlds as well as Bridgit, Annwn and Danu's Wall remain unexplored territory. The players could take the roles of Celtic explorers who are charting and learning more about these unexplored regions: like the harsh deserts of Gorias, the undersea ruins of Murias, the craggy mountain passes of Falias and the harsh surfaces of Annwn and Bridgit. Characters might discover new resources, ancient ruins, lost (Shidhe?) technology or evidence of a hidden pirate base or a Fomori incursion into the Alliance.
Land Beyond the Wave
A somewhat eccentric but respected druid on Murias believes she has discovered a psychic means of opening a passage in the Veil that surrounds Tir Bo Thuinn. She wants the player characters to accompany her in exploring the ruins and bringing back their findings to the King of Murias and eventually to the High King himself.
The druid's technique actually works, and the characters become the first Celts to set foot of the Land Beyond the Wave. They discover that the ruins are perfectly preserved by the effects of the Veil and that the outside world seems strangely distorted from inside the barrier. The ruins are a repository of some advanced technology, possibly left behind by the Shidhe or some other precursor race. The technology is very dangerous for humans and other "less evolved" creatures because it is highly psycho-reactive, responding to thought impulses and random ideas that humans have not yet learned to entirely control.
The characters find that many of their hidden dreams and fears are coming to life on the island, as the alien technology materializes whatever the characters think of. They must learn to control their thoughts or their own fears will destroy them. They will also have to decide if they can allow the technology on the island to be salvaged, especially when it turns out that the druid's apprentice has been replaced by a telepathic Fomori spy who plans to use this technology to make his people invincible.
A shaman among the Firbolg has begun agitating for a Tuatha withdrawal from Findias and inciting violence against the Tuatha by the Firbolg. Efforts to arrest him have failed and he appears to have considerable skill with magic, using it and traditional guerrilla tactics to evade the Red Branch's efforts to capture him.
The player characters are assigned to infiltrate the Firbolg communities of Meath and try and learn more about the rebel leader and his plans. Along the way they get a first-hand look at how the Firbolg are treated (both good and bad) by the Tuatha and may develop some sympathy for their plight.
They manage to pass all of the initiation tests (some telepathic) in order to get into the Firbolg resistance and discover that the mysterious leader claims to draw his power and authority from the Shidhe! Is the rebel leader actually the chosen of the gods and, if so, why have the Shidhe decided to choose sides after more than two centuries. Or is the shaman actually a Fomori infiltrator in disguise, looking to stir up trouble and using advanced Fomori technology to disguise his efforts as the will of the Shining Ones?
The Four Treasures
The player characters discover a Fomori spy attempting to steal ancient texts from a Bardic college on Gorias. These documents involve tales of the legendary Four Treasures of the Tuatha de Dannan, that the Tuatha brought with them on their journey to Eiru (ancient Ireland). Evidence arises that suggests that the Four Treasures may have been actual items that the Shidhe brought with them to Earth millennia ago and took back to the stars with them. Legends say the treasures were the Spear of Gorias, the Sword of Findias, the Cauldron of Murias and the Stone of Falias (the Lia Fail). They may be lost remnants of Shidhe ultra-technology or powerful repositories of psychic energy.
The player characters must work against the Fomori infiltrations who are looking for the lost Treasures, which they believe are hidden on each of the Four Worlds in the Danu system. The treasures could be as powerful as the Fomor hope or they might only be effective as symbol to rally (or demoralize) the Celtic people. The gamemaster will have to decide the potential of the treasure and whether or not the Shidhe are likely to intervene in order to keep them hidden. The treasures are most likely concealed behind various traps and protections, perhaps even in small pockets of Otherspace.
Other Game Systems
Gamemasters can make use of the Celtic Alliance and their enemies the Fomori in other space-faring game systems in addition to GURPS.
The Celtic Alliance history could occur as described, with the long-lost colony being discovered by Imperium explorers or the like. The Tuatha and the Fomori could become involved in the politics and conflicts of the other stellar powers in the Traveler universe, making allies and enemies on either side. The Tuatha's use of psionics will likely draw some initial distrust from the Imperium but might make the Four Worlds a haven for psionics seeking training in their abilities. It might also attract the attention of the psionic Zhodani, who wish to ally with their psychic "brethren" against the Imperium.
The Four Worlds make a good "lost colony" for the chaotic universe of Shatterzone. Their technology and psionic abilities fit in just fine with the abilities presented in the game. Perhaps the first outside ship to contact the Alliance comes from the Fleet, or one of the mega-corporations. Or perhaps it is an independent ship that must decide what it will do with the information about the Alliance. The Fomori might well be connected with whatever threat lurks on the other side of the Shatterzone and the Shidhe could also be connected with the strange phenomena in the depths of the River of God.
HERO Games universal system adapts well for the setting of Celtic Space. Gamemasters can use the Celtic Alliance as an addition to an existing Star Hero campaign, with the players as the first outsiders to make contact. Or they can star an entire Celtic Space campaign, with players taking the roles of Celtic and Firbolg characters working to explore and protect the Danu system.
The Four Worlds might exist in some distant sector of space untouched by the Empire (or perhaps recently liberated if the campaign takes place after the Battle of Endor). The Tuatha wouldn't be from Earth, they would just have some parallels to Earth legend (like the rest of the Star Wars universe). Most Tuatha technology is fully compatible with the equipment from Star Wars and their magic could be based on a use of the Force.
Article publication date: August 7, 1998
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