A New Race for GURPS
by Kimara Bernard
The concept of a humanoid feline race is old; in fact, they are one of the common types of alien or fantastic creature around. A famous portrayal is Niven's Kzinti, which are utterly feline, and extrapolate on the differences between ape-like creatures (us) and felines, making the Kzinti both familiar and very alien. And there is the utterly popular anime catpeople, which seem to be all the craze these days.
Most uplifted or coincidental cat-type species in literature seem to focus on a particular type of cat, such as a lion or housecat. This article takes a different tack on that approach: What about all sorts of cats? What about a race based on the menagerie of cats that exist in the real world?
Therefore . . . meet the Sahj, a feline race whose society has different cats on the record. Initially designed for a space setting, the Sahj are appropriate as a counterpoint to humans, or as a race standing on their own, appropriate for fantasy or science fiction. In this background, they are an uplifted race, created millennia ago by a precursor race that is long-gone.
The Sahj assumes a world that has technology, magic, and psionics, although magic can be exorcised easily. The Sahj are written here as a psionic race, but in a more "hard science" campaign, the psionics can easily be dropped without losing the Sahj's sense of distinction. In a more fantastic game, their Taboo Trait limiting Magery can be weakened or removed, or their psionic abilities replaced with magic. An entire world covered in Sahj and Sahj alone can be as flexible a fantasy campaign as any; the various types of Sahj can easily replace the standard fantasy assortment of races.
The Sahj do not believe themselves to be an uplifted race, and would vehemently argue the point with anyone, but the hints do stand strongly. They are divided into five subraces or breeds: Sorah, Skakak, Kohj, Inkahjahj, and Linhj. Each of these will seem familiar, as they're loosely based on a particular species of Earth cat.
Sahj society is based on a strict caste system, based on the individual's breed. Their breeds are significantly different from each other, much more so than the different ethnic groups of humanity. However, they are similar enough that most (but not all) can interbreed, just like real-world cats. This physical quality defines much of the ability to change status.
Sahj Base Template
All Sahj have a basic template, which can also be used to build additional subraces or breeds; perhaps the Sahj themselves are unaware of other groups out there. (Perhaps there are other uplifts lost elsewhere in the galaxy?) All Sahj are coated with a layer of fur, although it varies greatly in thickness and, accordingly, cost. Sahj teeth also vary a great deal, and some breeds have very dangerous jaws while some have a bite no more dangerous than the average human's. All Sahj have tails, but they are merely for balance, no more useful than your terrestrial feline's tail.
Sahj breeds do not have to follow their racial templates strictly; they could lack fur, claws, or psionics, for instance. However, lack of distinct Advantages generally causes the Sahj in question to be thrown out of their caste, becoming part of the dredges of society: the outcasted (see below).
The Sahj also have a Code of Honor that is ingrained in their entire society: they defer to elders or higher ranks except in their own areas of expertise, and they do not use psionic powers without prior permission or against beings not threatening their lives. (There are also strict laws in Sahj society governing this.) A Sahj who violates the Code and is caught is automatically Outcasted (-10 point Social Stigma), and is likely to lose Status, good Reputation, and Wealth as well, as the government system is very unforgiving against such crimes.
Attributes: ST 10 ; DX 11 ; IQ 10 ; HT 10 .
Advantages: Normal Teeth ; Fur ; Claws .
Disadvantages: Sahj Code of Honor [-5].
All Sahj (with the exception of the Inkahjahj) have the Taboo Trait: No Magery (0 points). They also have their native breed language at no cost, and 1 point in the Sorah language, Ahj.
The Caste System
The Caste System is a very ancient and rigid set system of duties defined by the breed into which a Sahj is born. In the descriptions for each group, their general caste is listed below their name; this is an overview of the full system.
The caste system of the Sahj can seem brutally rigid from the outside, but to the Sahj themselves this system seems natural in many ways; many of the different breeds really do have predisposition towards the duties of their caste. There are, of course, tragic exceptions, such as the Kohj who wants to be a merchant or artist. By far the most open groups are the Sorah and the Linhj, the former of which have always had the most social mobility and the latter of which vividly recalls prejudice and works against it.
As Sahj society progresses technologically, the outcasted and lower-casted find more ways to escape "the system." In a space-age campaign with other races, the Inkahjahj and Linhj often leave Sahj society to live in other societies. The Sahj who is thrown out of society can always leave home and try to get a job somewhere else. In other eras, they may be people on the outskirts of societies, living in the wilderness and hoping that no one kills them. They will never be welcome at home, and -- similarly to being a sex offender in much of the United States -- the Outcasted status will never be erased from their records. (Although it might be possible that saving someone very important or being a hero to the entire Sahj race might do it.)
Casual Psionics and the Sahj
As stated in the basic package information, the Sahj have strict laws and a Code of Honor against thought-reading. But in addition to this, a setting where the Sahj are common should have a "casual thought shield" society in effect. In other words, virtually all people, psionically trained or no, will instinctively defend themselves from casual psionics. In game effects, this means that any attempt to read minds or use other powers directly on an intelligent target will always require a roll, and there is always a chance the reader will be noticed. Either a race is psionically attuned and simply instinctively defends itself, or a race is completely psionically inert, and is therefore harder to read. Either way, this makes casual abuse harder to attempt.
Additionally, Sahj hate "screamers" (people with Anti-Psi). They are a constant headache and nuisance for them.
Each breed has multiple languages in an ancient or medieval setting, based on their region. Despite the heavy societal overlap by the three primary breeds (Sorah, Skakak, and Kohj), these three also tend to keep a breed language intact. The mainstream Sahj languages, for trade and travel purposes, are Sorah-based. They're the bulk of the population, and, more important to the spread of language, the merchants.
Most Sahj language are Mental/Hard for non-Sahj, unless they are unusually good at noises such as hisses, strong aspirations (breathy speech), and purr-like noises. The heavy usage of h's in their names indicates the hissing, breathy sounds common in the language. Sharp and short hisses are common in swear words.
By a modern (TL6+) or space age campaign (TL8+), the Sahj have one unified language that is the common speech, Ahj. This is their trade tongue and their political tongue, and all Sahj learn it from youth. It is also the primary Sorah tongue. All other breeds learn at least one breed-specific language as well, which are used in the home. Military Sahj all learn Ak'ji even if they are not Kohj, and any technician, scientist, or engineering-oriented Sahj learn Kalinhj (Linhj breed language) despite breed as well, since these are the languages of those respective professions. The Inkahjahj breed language is Kahihj, but is unknown outside of the breed and linguists, while the Skakak breed language, Ubehij, is spoken by any noble. There are also the archaic forms of each breed language which are used for historical study and religious functions.
Sahj are notorious for "Sahjifying" words for example, the word ending "j" marks a creature as sapient, so the Sahj would call human or a human "hoomanj". This makes a good quirk for Sahj characters.
Modern and space-age Sahj religion is henotheistic; they follow one god, with acknowledgement that others can exist. Most Sahj are sticklers for tradition and refuse to give up anything that was in their past; hence, although they believe in a primary deity (translated as "The Guide"), they have lists of ancient gods in all their temples. It's a "just in case we forgot anything" and "don't want to offend history by leaving out the old religion" attitude.
They are also iconoclastic about the Guide; although ancient deities no longer actively worshipped can be portrayed as people (and often are), the Guide cannot be. It is viewed as the ultimate blasphemy in their religion to even attempt to draw a picture of what you think the Guide looks like, and such heresy can cause a person to be thrown into prison for life. Of course, there are multitudes of religious sub-groups under this main belief, as confusing as humanity's.
Of particular note are the major differences of the Kohj and the Inkahjahj. The Kohj are staunch ancestor- worshippers, keeping huge catalogs of their heritages to recite in prayer. The Inkahjahj are still very pantheistic, centered around nature worship; however, they, too are firmly against humanoid portrays of any of their deities, instead using symbols to represent sites or things sacred to them or one of their particular deities.
In earlier eras, the other Sahj deities are important, and the Guide is more an abstract view of the universe or a powerful deity the society is truly pantheistic in belief. Ancestors are deified, not simply worshipped, especially in Kohj cultures. The iconoclastic concepts are late introductions, mostly from later philosophy, in all their religions. Even the Inkahjahj portray their deities in earlier periods.
This article gives generalities for setting the Sahj in various time periods, drawing a few examples from the real world. GURPS Japan is recommended reading to get a feel of the medieval Sahj; of particular note is the idea of an existing Emperor but warring nobles and clans. Japan's samurai clans become Skakak or Kohj nobles and their warriors. Their renaissance and industrial revolution is pushed forward by the Linhj desperation to become members of society rather than near-slaves on the periphery. They introduce firearms and other devices, obtaining the patronage of the Skakak nobles. During this time period, many Sorah rise up in caste by intermarriage (which is when it first becomes common) or by becoming artists and artisans. The industrial revolution is almost entirely driven by Linhj and Sorah, nearly leaving others in the dust; however, without the government and military provided by Skakak and Kohj, society would not have held up to change. The Inkahjahj cultures, spread across plains and other fertile areas, are driven to the most desolate places as cities and civilization spread. They are always outcasted and outcasts through this time.
The Sahj change drastically once introduced to either other races or space. Although loosely unified, the introduction of other threats or allies (or both) drives them to become truly unified, leaving only the Inkahjahj on the periphery. This latter breed, oppressed even through the most enlightened ages of Sahj culture, only gains a second chance as Sahj leave the home world.
The Sorah are based off the felis concolor, also known as the mountain lion, cougar, and puma. Panther and leopard stock, of the panthera pardus type, is also part of the Sorah makeup. The Sorah have the greatest variability in the color and pattern of their fur of any breed. They are thin-framed, averaging about six feet tall and 160 pounds, with long tails about two feet in length.
Sorah constitute the majority of the Sahj population, and are the Commoner Caste. In a pre-industrial (TL4-) society, Sorah are serfs, peasants, and common workers, as well as a fair portion of the skilled labor and merchants. During industrialization, the Sorah are the most common group to be made factory workers, but as they are also the merchant class, they reap the profits of change. Sorah average about 50 to 60 percent of the total Sahj populace.
Sorah are egalitarian, believing in the capability of females. In medieval or fantasy settings, this is because the life of a Sorah male can be brutally short, as they are often the conscripted suicide troops of armies. They therefore allow females to own goods and businesses, and daughters to inherit. However, when there is a male in the inheritance line, unless proven incompetent, ownership defaults to him. This only changes in the modern (TL6+) period.
After TL4 or so, the Sorah as a breed gain the most social flexibility of any group of Sahj. They are able to climb up to the Noble Caste, sometimes by intermarriage and sometimes by pure wealth. The Sorah can freely interbreed with the Skakak and Kohj breeds, although there is a good chance (50%) the child will be sterile. These interbred children tend to have Sorah traits. If the mixed-breed child goes on to have children with a purebred Sorah, Skakak, or Kohj, the children will have traits like the purebred parent.
Sorah follow the basic Sahj template, but in a campaign with psionics, they should purchase at least 5 points of psionic powers. Non-psionic Sorah tend to be looked down upon, and if they also lack ability in other areas, Outcasted (-10 point Disadvantage). It costs 26 points (including the 5 points of psionics) to play a Sahj Sorah, or 11 points to play an Outcasted Sorah.
Skakak are the Noble Caste, and cousin to lions (panthera leo). They are the elite leaders and arbiters of Sahj society. They hold power, and traditionally this power is given to them willingly. Sometimes Skakak are amid the commoners, but even those reduced to the commoner caste are regarded quite highly. Skilled in psionics, excellent in leadership, the Skakak have a certain quality to them that makes the title of "Noble" fit.
Skakak males are quite tall, averaging about 6' 3" in height, while the females are only an inch or two shorter. Only males have head-fur, which is long and luxurious, and kept in fine shape. They have elongated, pointed ears which are high upon the head. All Skakak have a fine coat of sun-colored fur, which remains short. Skakak, although regarded highly by other breeds regardless of status, regard themselves as fallen if they do not have some sort of leadership or warrior position. Even the females are highly competitive.
In a pre-TL4 society, Skakak are every bit the good and bad of nobility, but generally a bit arrogant and conceited. They command their own elite Skakak "knights"; the Sahj homeworld has the kashka (a very horse-like mammal -- use horse statistics) and Kohj warriors. The nobles vary in the same way human nobles did, ranging from cruel and demanding despots to beneficent rulers. Their competitive streak makes them dangerous; although early in Sahj history the bulk of society become united under "the Emperor", this unity is not unlike the medieval European Holy Roman Empire or Japan's Warring States period. Most Skakak (male or female), especially of the pre-TL4 society, are experts with swords and lances; claws just don't have range!
In a more modern period -- after Sahj society managed to calm down, somewhat unify, and go through an industrial revolution -- the Skakak are still the ruling class, but not completely dominant. They simply do not have the command of mercantile and technological ventures that the Sorah and the Linhj do. However, their positions are more than ceremonial; Sahj society believes in the Noble Caste. Most Skakak go through military training in their youth, taught both to fight and to lead troops, and are the supporting caste of the governmental bureaucracy and its military. Commoner Caste Skakak are often the victims of political sabotage and familial in fighting; despite their noble qualities, they are as political as any.
Although not required, Skakak should have the skill Karate Art (M/H). This represents the ceremonial claw-fighting which Skakak do at many ceremonies and meetings. They also tend to have other ceremonial combative skills and social skills, which can be reflected with other skills.
Skakak have the standard Sahj package, plus the following: HT+1 [+10], Sharp Teeth [+5], Telepathy 1 [+5], Status +1 [+5], and minimum Sense of Duty (to friends and acquaintances) [-5]. They also have the Skills Telereceive, Telesend, and Mind Shield at IQ-2 . Most Skakak have a higher Sense of Duty than that, and often a higher point value Code of Honor. It costs a total of 34 points to play a Skakak. A Commoner Caste Skakak would not have Status +1.
Kohj are the Warrior Caste and descendant of tigers (panthera tigris). Their caste and standing are without doubt; they are the largest and toughest of the Sahj. Standing an average six-and-a-half feet tall, with larger claws than other Sahj, they are impressive and powerful. Their fur is striped, with black stripes on gold and orange fur. Their head-fur never gets long, but in general their fur is thicker than other Sahj. They have ears which are not quite as elongated as other breeds, and are somewhat rounded, but also are high on the head. There is some variance on the fur colors, with lighter and darker coloration being normal. The Kohj do have near- albino members, who are white furred and chocolate striped, always with blue eyes; there is one Irihkohj ("white Kohj") for about every 50,000 Kohj or so. In ancient times (TL4-) they are regarded as prophets or great warriors, but there are no significant differences other than fur color. (Irihkohj are not albinos, and do not have the Albinism disadvantage.)
In ancient times, the Kohj are an independent group, both a noble and warrior caste, and frequently clash with the Skakak and Sorah. However, although Kohj are great warriors, they are not as good at leading as the Skakak, and accordingly their status fell over time. By the Sahj's medieval period (TL3-4), most Kohj have sworn fealty to a Skakak and become devoted to simply being a warrior caste. In modern times (TL6+), they are the front- line troops, although since the Sorah outnumber them, they are certainly not all of the military. They have no qualms about modern weaponry, but still prefer to close to melee if possible. They know they have an advantage over most other creatures. Kohj warriors are pledged to branches of their local military rather than individual nobles, but the oaths are remarkably similar. Even during times of peace, they are pushed to train for the next potential battle.
Kohj males and females are taught to fight, in equally rigid programs. The females are generally taught more defensive tactics, to defend bases and homes, while males are taught more aggressive tactics. Ownership, money, etc., defaults to females in families, as males are assumed to be busy training or fighting. Unmarried males are allowed to be independent or ask a female family member to manage their worldly goods. In modern times, this gives Kohj females a great deal of power and freedom. They tend to have an easier time "breaking the mold" of being a simple warrior, and pursuing other interests. Kohj males tend to gravitate towards protection and other pseudomilitary jobs; they have been taught little else.
All Kohj have military duties, regardless of time period. Every last Kohj, male or female, is trained as warriors. Those who fail in their duties tend to take on near-suicide missions to redeem themselves to do otherwise is to fail their race . . . . This is the reason for their higher Code of Honor than the typical Sahj. They are considered psionically weak by many Sahj, but this is a misconception: they tend to focus on one or two powers rather than branch out.
All Kohj have a minimum of 10 points in Brawling, Karate Art (see Skakak, above), Guns (at least two types), Armory, and any other appropriate combat skills the player desires. In a pre-modern game, the required skills are instead Brawling, Karate Art, Broadsword or Two-handed Sword, Bow, Staff, or Armory. (They may take the Uneducated disadvantage to explain a lack of these skills). Kohj can interbreed freely with Sorah and Skakak, but there is a 50% chance for the children to be sterile. For this reason and because of their militant bent, the Kohj highly dissuade marriage outside of caste and breed.
Kohj have the basic Sahj package plus the following: ST+2 [+20], HT+1 [+10], Combat Reflexes [+15], Sharp Claws [+10], Sharp Teeth [+5], and Fur [+4]. They have the Kohj Code of Honor [-10], Sense of Duty (all Sahj) [-15], and the Taboo Trait: Psionic Limitations  (see below). In a campaign with other alien races, Kohj have Intolerance toward one of them. It costs 75 points to play a Kohj, counting the 10 points of skills. Kohj are limited to Power 3 or less in all psionic Power groups other than Psychokinesis and ESP.
The Inkahjahj are the plains-dwellers of the Sahj, preferring a lower technology and a reticent life, heavy with strange traditions. They are based on the acinonyx jubatus, or cheetah, and have lost the fewest of their animal traits. They are relatively tall for Sahj, averaging about 6'-6'2" for both males and females. However, they are slightly hunched, making them appear a few inches shorter. They are also unique amid Sahj in that they have not lost their capability to run on all fours. An Inkahjahj is nearly impossible to tell from his non-sapient cousin when running. Inkahjahj fur varies a fair amount, some with black stripes and some with black spots, but all are brown-yellow with darker patterning. These patterns are distinct enough that many Inkahjahj clans can spot even distant relatives by fur pattern.
The Inkahjahj culture is not unlike the plains-dwelling Native Americans; they are wandering hunters and gatherers, preferring to move about their plains unimpeded. In ancient times, this is not an issue; they simply avoid the other Sahj, and are classified as "savages" by other breeds. As the other Sahj breeds spread, the life of an Inkahjahj becomes harsher. They refuse to incorporate into the Sahj caste system, and flee to more and more obscure parts of the world. Combined with their unique trait of being capable of magic, not just psionics, they are Outcasted in all time periods of Sahj history. Like many nomadic cultures of Earth, the Inkahjahj ways are slowly being blotted out. (If the ability to use magic is allowed to all Sahj, the Inkahjahj should be better at it than others, and this may improve their social situation.)
As technology marches on, and the industrial revolution gets into full swing, some Inkahjahj are forced into society as serf or slave labor. Most of these sad souls languish and ultimately die out, often because of disease or cramped quarters, which drive them mad. By the modern and space-faring eras, the Inkahjahj are a dying breed, down to less than half a million members in a species of billions. They simply do not cope well with modern technology and cities; for instance, every last Inkahjahj is claustrophobic, and it can take a lifetime for them to fight this off. They have never been fond of technology, viewing as an unnecessary crutch, and their systems reject cybernetic implants and other medical technologies, making them even more wary. (Many have technophobia.)
Inkahjahj are proud to remain outcasted. Although they regard some aspects of Sahj society as good in particular, deference to elders and casual thought reading remain disliked in their society they are in general disgusted with their cousins. Most do not regard themselves as anything more than nominally Sahj. This is confirmed in their eyes and others by the fact that they cannot easily interbreed with other Sahj. The only interbreeding that results in any children are with Sorah, and the child is always sterile. This further drives them from Sahj society. In a campaign focusing on discovering history and precursors, it can be posited that the Inkahjahj are an incomplete uplift project, a point founded on the above facts.
Although they dislike technology and are unlikely to like using it, they often have technological skills related to survival-useful items. They hate heavy armor, space suits, and anything else that completely covers them, a problem related to their claustrophobia.
Inkahjahj have the following in addition to the Sahj basic package: additional DX+2 [+30], HT+1 [+10], Perfect Balance [+15], Enhanced Move 2 (Running) [+20], Claustrophobia (Severe) [-30], Social Stigma 2 (Outcasted) [-10], Cyber-Rejection [-10], and the Taboo Trait: Magery 1 only (0 points). They have the Skills Survival (Plains) at IQ-1, Spear at DX-1, and Spear Throwing at DX 1 [+3]. They may buy the Claustrophobia down to Mild at character creation, but it takes time and roleplaying to remove it entirely. It costs 39 points to play a Sahj Inkahjahj. In a pre-TL8 society, an Inkahjahj costs 49 points to play, as Cyber- Rejection is not applicable. In a campaign with other magic-using Sahj, the Taboo Trait should be removed.
The Linhj are, like the Inkahjahj, a Sahj breed on the edge of acceptable society, keeping to their own ways. Unlike most Sahj, however, the Linhj question society at each turn, and stand in a unique position to alter the society in ways they see fit. They continually argue with the rigid regime of the Sahj caste system and any strongly held traditions. They are technologically inclined . . . or rather, they love technology in all its forms. Most Sahj think all Linhj are perfectionists, and prefer technology over their inborn psionic abilities -- a stereotype based on truth. A Linhj born without psionics does more than fine in their society, as long as he proves his intellectual capabilities.
Before the great birth of technology Linhj are outcasted, rejects on the edge of society. Most Sahj prefer temperate or tropical climates, but the Linhj cling to cold and subterranean environments. (Linhj are the entire reason Sahj have air conditioning systems; their natural comfort range is from 15 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.) They have become instrumental to the Sahj's industrial revolution and evolution, though, at first forced by the incursions of their unfriendly cousins and later by bribing their ways up with their devices. Past TL4, the Linhj are real movers and shakers, promoted up to the Commoner caste, and finally given their own niche, the Engineer Caste, by TL7. They have long memories, though, and their ancestors' tales to remind them of their former positions before they proved their worth to their fellow Sahj. They often demand respect from those around them.
Linhj are very short, only averaging about 4'8" for the males, an inch shorter for females. Most Linhj have white fur with some striping, especially about the face, with the rare Linhj being red or orange furred -- Irihlinhji. In ancient times, Irihlinhji were sometimes regarded as potential heroes or delegates to the other breeds, but there are no real differences other than a difference of coloration.
Linhj are proud of their facial fur and take good care of it, but do not sport long head-fur in back. They have very pointed ears with wisps of (generally) dark hair at the ends of them. Pulling these hairs is the highest insult in their culture! Albinism is more common amid the Linhj than any other, although it's sometimes hard to tell, since they are white-furred anyway the only real difference is faded or absent striping.
Linhj enjoy bucking the system. The Linhj of the modern and spacefaring societies enjoy their power within the Sahj hierarchy, because it doesn't matter how good a leader a Skakak is or how great a warrior the Kohj is if their ships or their weapons are broke, they have to come to the Linhj! This gives them something of a superiority complex. Linhj are also much more apt to like any non-Sahj, viewing encounters as opportunities to trade ideas.
All Linhj have technical skills, as taught to them growing up; it's their ticket out of a lousy cave in the Sahjis antipodes and into a nice air conditioned condo. However, they diversify quite a bit in their skills. Although many are engineers, yet other Linhj work in medical fields, construction, and other technical or scientific enterprises. It's the rare Linhj that doesn't admire building and technology.
In addition to the standard Sahj package, Linhj have ST-2 [-15], DR +2 [+6], Temperature Tolerance +4 versus Cold [+4], Sharp Teeth [+5], Versatile [+5], Mathematical Ability [+10], ESP 1 , Reduced Move 1 [-5], Sahj Code of Honor [-5], Odious Racial Habit: Enjoy arguing with the System [-5], and Intolerance: Peoples who like heat [-5]. They must have a minimum of 5 points in Scientific Skills. It costs 29 points to play a Sahj Linhj, 26 without psionics.
Below TL5, the Sahj system of government is a city-state system not unlike ancient Greece, with Skakak or Kohj making up the warriors or elector-nobles of a city. Over time, the system became imperial. Like ancient Japan, however, this system fails and the Emperor loses power. This causes the shift to a large-scale feudal system, in which ultimately the Skakak come out on top as universal rulers. The advent of technology pushes the individual feudal states towards more organized government, including a loose democratic system in which individual Skakak (or Sorah, later) are elected to pseudonoble positions. Ultimately, upon arriving in the space age and encountering other species, they reinstate the Emperor as an elected position, picked by a Great Council consisting of representatives of every breed. The bulk of Sahj society is very traditional, and they reached back to ancient roots to develop a universal system of rule. Most of the modern Sahj states and organizations have their predecessors in either the feudal states or even the most ancient city-states, while the Emperor is elected from a Royal Family that theoretically dates back thousands of years.
The final form of government is therefore a constitutional monarchy. Instead of a "constitution with rights," though, the Sahj have the Declaration of the Castes, which lists the traditional duties of the breeds and "amendments" allowing changes in society. Technically, any breed can move to any caste under the law; there is simply enough prejudice to keep this from actually happening. All breeds do have representatives spread throughout the system, not just the breed representatives, although the outcastes and barely casted (the Inkahjahj and Linhj) only have a handful. The general populace elects all of these representatives. A breed elects its breed representatives, while state and colony representatives are elected by their constituents.
The Emperor is chosen by the Great Council from the Royal Family, although the previous Emperor has a strong opinion which he expresses. Traditionally, the eldest son is groomed to inherit the position, but if the Council can declare him incompetent. They will then move on to another of the Emperor's children, then the Emperor's nephews and nieces, and so forth. "Emperor" is just a title there have been more than one Empress. In addition, although there is one, primary Royal Family, there are also closely related families from which an Emperor may be selected if there are no acceptable members in the primary family. In this case, the primary family changes as well. This is very rare.
The local-level governments hint very strongly at the ancient nobility system. Most positions have noble titles, and most higher up positions are held by Skakak, with the rare Kohj or Sorah holding a position of authority. The exception is the military; in the military system, the leadership positions are split about 60/40 between Skakak and Kohj.
The All-Sahj Campaign
- In ancient times, Sorah rebels must confront brutal Skakak and Kohj warriors, a la Spartacus.
- An industrial revolution-focused game, such as Steampunk, with berserk Linhj scientists and engineers frantically trying to outdo each other for noble support, status improvements, and raw money.
- An Inkahjahj tribe, wandering the lands, attempts to find the traces of the lost civilizations of their earlier eras, when they attempted to settle down, before being driven out into the wilderness yet again. These ruins could hold the secrets to powerful magic unknown to all others.
- A classic fantasy-style game focusing on a group of medieval Sahj trying to stop Kohj raiders from ruining local lords, while trying to make heads or tails of the strange weapons the Linhj are trying to sell to them.
Sahj Mixed with Other Races
- A mixed-species scout ship runs across a world with semi-sapient creatures remarkably similar to the Sahj. Perhaps they're a lost breed? How did they get here? Why are they here? Maybe something is wrong with the planet itself, and they're not simply not evolved, but devolved.
- A splinter group of Kohj has broken with the traditions of the last thousand years and has declared itself independent of all governments, founding a militant colony on an obscure world. This is a breech of all the ancient pacts, and a blemish on Sahj society but how can they convince the splinter group to come back into the fold?
- An Inkahjahj tribe has decided to leave the homeworld. They've saved up enough money to pay a fortune to the ship that will take them to a plains-covered, friendly colony world. It seems the ideal job for a down-on-your- luck ship, until all those Inkahjahj are stuck onboard, claustrophobic and miserable. Of course, disaster sticks the ship in space for far longer than the voyage should be, supplies run short, and the Inkahjahj are making hell for the crew. Can sanity and supplies hold out for everyone?
* * *
Special Thanks the Archangel of Archives, who is kind to me even when I'm nagging her about writing and ideas, and the hubby Kayn Bernard, who changed the Sahj spellings to better fit linguistic logic and my ideas of pronunciation.
Article publication date: January 9, 2004
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