Designer's Notes: GURPS Space, Fourth Edition

Wild Life: A Worked Campaign Example

by James L. Cambias

"Wild Life" was one of three "worked example" appendices cut out of the first draft of GURPS Space Fourth Edition for reasons of length. The goal was to create a near-future, relatively hard-SF setting in which humans (and thus the PCs) were genuinely the underdogs. Potential themes to explore include rebellion, the ethics of collaboration and resistance, and understanding the Other.

The tone would most likely be Thriller or Action-Adventure, though it could shade into Space Opera. Genetic and psychological manipulation of humans by aliens could inject a note of horror.

The scale would start fairly small, but as the PCs and the rebellion they support gain in power, they can have more of an effect on the game world. Similarly the physical scope would initially be a single town or province, but could ultimately become interstellar.

I tried to keep the science very hard, with only one piece of "rubber science" -- the Shahar faster-than-light drive. I assumed a Hard-SF TL9, with superscience faster-than-light drives and TL10 alien biotechnology. Within those limits, it can support adventure styles ranging from harshly realistic to blatantly cinematic.

Since the days of Johannes Kepler, humans wondered if there was other intelligent life in the Universe. In 2053, they found out.

The conquest of the Solar System was fast and ruthless. The Shahar first strike destroyed satellites, missile silos and warships, and was followed quickly by landings in Earth's major cities. The ultimate Shahar weapon was the Pacification Plague -- a deadly human-specific virus. It killed 99 percent of those infected, guaranteeing that the vast majority of survivors were the humans willing to accept the Shahar antiviral drugs -- and thereby submit to their control. Half the human race died of the plague and the desperate military campaigns against the invaders, but the Shahar didn't mind; their plans for the Earth required some empty room for colonists and the new human species which they planned to create.

That was 50 years ago. The initial war of conquest ended, a series of doomed revolts were put down, and now it seems humanity has accepted its role in the Shahar Family of Species.

The Shahar

Earth's new masters are an advanced species of carnivores, who use genetic manipulation to mold conquered species into ideal servants, and to shape themselves into ideal masters.

Society

Shahar society is very stable, chiefly through the ceaseless efforts of social engineers to keep it that way. Young Shahar are constantly tested for aptitude in various fields -- military, administration, science, etc. -- and based on those tests are trained and indoctrinated for placement in one of the numerous professional castes.

Membership in a caste guarantees certain privileges and responsibilities; in human terms it's like belonging to a combination of professional association, labor union, social class, and political party. Within its area of expertise, a caste is supreme, and all important decisions on issues affecting that area must include a caste leader in the process. Caste membership is not hereditary, but there is strong pressure to marry within one's caste. It is an explicit goal of the Shahar social engineers to make all castes genetically optimal for their jobs.

The three most important castes are the Social Engineers, the Military Officers, and the Administrators. The most respected and high-status members of those castes make up the majority of the Objective Council, which determines the long-term goals and strategies of Shahar society. The Objective Council's exact membership changes depending on what is going on. When military affairs are paramount, there are more Officer members. In peacetime, the balance shifts and more members from castes in trade, industry, and the sciences join.

Ancestry

The Shahar homeworld, Ahur, is slightly smaller than Earth, and considerably drier. Less than half its surface is covered by water, and continental drift has created a landscape with no large ocean basins. The Shahar evolved from bipedal pack hunters and scavengers in the vast dry plains of Ahur. Their small forelimbs and headlimbs originally functioned as claws for killing prey, but evolved to more general-purpose manipulators. According to Shahar texts (which may or may not be "edited" for humans), the Shahar path to intelligence began with increasingly complex communication and social behavior in hunting packs, progressed to herding of game animals and the use of language, and only then to the creation of tools.

The Planet Ahur

World Type: Standard (Garden)
Size Factor: 0.73
Blackbody Temperature: 295 K
Density: 1.1
Diameter: 0.84 Earth diameters (6,657 miles)
Mass: 0.65 Earth masses
Gravity: 0.92 G
Atmosphere: Standard (low oxygen); pressure 0.83 bars, oxygen content 12%
Hydrography: 50% ocean coverage
Average Temperature: 304 K (88 F)
Climate: Warm
Resource Modifier: 0 (average)
Affinity Rating: 8 (for Shahar)
Population: 4 billion
TL: Standard TL10 (advanced in biology and memetics)
Society: World Government, Meritocratic Caste system
Control Rating: 4
Per-Capita Income: $72,000 (Average TL10 wealth)
Economic Volume: $288 trillion
Manpower: 24,000
Facilities: 172,800
Military: 12 Armies, 4 Elite Armies (the Expeditionary Force), 6 Special Army (Aerospace Forces), 2 Special Elite Army (Expeditionary Assault Force), 12 Reserve Armies, 12 Militia Corps.
Fleet: 2 Major Fleets, 2 Minor Fleets, 1 Cruiser Squadron
Facilities: Very Large Spaceport in orbit (plus numerous Frontier spaceports at airfields on the surface), 2 Large Naval Bases in orbit, 2 Average Naval Bases on surface, 1 Small Naval Base (exploration command, in orbit), 2 Large Shipyards in orbit, 2 orbital industrial habitats, Advanced space elevator, 40 spaceplane shuttles, 10 launch lasers.
Notes: Ahur is a dry planet, with broad plains and rocky deserts interrupted by old mountain chains and a few shallow seas. There are no polar caps, and snow is rare even at high latitudes. It has no moons, and rotates with a period of 18 hours.

History

Designer's Note

In creating the Shahar, I wanted alien overlords who had a good reason for trying to conquer the Galaxy. The Shahar are doing it because they think it's the right thing to do -- and who knows? They might be right. They're powerful, but they have some Achilles' Heels the human rebels can exploit. The biggest is the other subject species, who might well join an uprising.

Roughly 100,000 years ago, overgrazing set off a catastrophic climate shift on Ahur, reducing large regions to desert. The Shahar population went into a nosedive; there may have been only a few hundred Shahar alive at the height of the crisis. The desert crisis also served as a powerful Darwinian culling of the species: the Shahar who survived understood the importance of cooperation, sound management of their lands, and long-range thinking. They were also, on average, smarter and tougher than their ancestors.

As the planet recovered, the Shahar spread across its surface once more, but they no longer lived in feuding tribes. They established a government which united the various clans and bands, resolving disputes and allocating land. At first it was a simple gathering of tribal elders, but later developed into a kind of federation. Though various tribes at times renounced it or rebelled against it, and beyond the borders groups of barbarians fought and raided, the central government (known as the Enershen, or "Family of Families") alway controlled the bulk of the planet's population.

The 20,000-year history of the Enershen is the history of the Shahar civilization, even to the present day. In that long time it has changed structure dozens of times. Since approximately 3000 BC, the government has been technocratic: plans and policies are devised and implemented by experts, selected and trained for government early in life.

Shahar science followed a different path than Terran. The Shahar first developed a good understanding of biology, especially ecology and genetics. That in turn led them to chemistry and thermodynamics during the first millennium BC. Electricity and magnetism came relatively late in Shahar scientific history. They had electric power by AD 1200, and an understanding of electromagnetic waves by 1400.

The first Shahar space flight was in AD 1600. A two-stage vehicle put an unmanned satellite in orbit in 1615. Exploration of their star system proceeded slowly and methodically during the 17th and 18th centuries. Computer science developed during the same era, and made the entire administration of the Enershen dramatically more efficient. As with most of their technologies, the Shahar preferred to concentrate on large, centrally-administered systems, so today they have powerful mainframe computers but no personal devices. Individuals have personal terminals instead, linked to the central systems.

One aspect of Shahar science which humans have found amusing is its tendency to go off on long, well-funded wild-goose chases. Metallurgy led to a long digression into what humans might call alchemy, while the first discoveries in quantum physics led to pointless investigations of consciousness and "psychic" phenomena. On the other hand, a similarly bogus-seeming project in 1820 to penetrate "higher dimensions" paid off handsomely with the development of the Tube Drive. Suddenly the Universe was open to the Shahar.

The first alien civilization encountered by the Shahar were the Tarcaseru, in 1853. Since at the time the Tarcaseru were still only experimenting with working iron tools, there was no real resistance to the Shahar, and the Shahar had established a colonial government before even formulating plans on what to do.

The Family of Species

The Shahar have organized themselves and six other species into a single polity, known as the Enershakun, or Family of Species. Their goal is to make all intelligent life into a single, interdependent society. To accomplish this, the Shahar have embarked on a policy of genetic engineering, selective breeding, and social manipulation of their subject species. Each is being specialized for a particular role. The Shahar, naturally, have chosen to develop their own abilities at government, manipulation, and leadership. They are be the natural-born rulers of the Family.

Gustrogins are physically the largest of the Family, and consequently the Shahar have made them workers and soldiers. The Shahar engineers have attempted to make them docile, obedient, and patient, and are working on improving their stamina and notoriously poor vision.

The Tarcaseru had a highly complex society of their own and showed a natural talent for communication and organization. The Shahar have emphasized these traits in them, turning them into a whole species of middle managers and bureaucrats. Most of the day-to-day administration of the Family of Species is conducted by Tarcaseru, and they are the most thoroughly integrated into the new society.

The Qasuti are the only completely aquatic species in the Family, and the Shahar rely on them for work and miliary operations in underwater environments. Because they live where few Shahar wish to visit, the Qasuti have retained a bit more autonomy, and have undergone little biological modification.

The Ascended are seen only infrequently on Earth, but are often encountered in orbit and in deep space. The conquest of the Ascended was an exceedingly bloody affair, and the Shahar took the unusual step of implanting symbiotic drug-producing organisms in the bodies of all Ascended who leave their home world. The drug symbiotes produce a constant supply of hormones which make the Ascended calm, peaceful, and obedient.

Finally, there are the newest members of the Family: humans. The Shahar were impressed by humans' dextrous hands, superb pattern-recognition, and capacity for sustained effort. They have decided to make humans into a new technical caste within the Family, and to that end have been developing the new human race to be less competitive, more attentive, and not as constantly sexual.

The Shahar honestly believe they are doing good. By conquering humanity and incorporating Homo sapiens into the Family of Species they are bringing peace and stability to Earth, preventing interstellar conflict, and helping to bring about the final unification of all intelligent life.

The Occupation Government

Designer's Note

The discussion of the Occupation regime has been cut down somewhat. To make the Shahar conquest more plausible I originally listed some "quisling states" who supported the invaders. In retrospect I think that tied the setting too much to present-day geopolitics. How things will line up in 2053 is impossible to predict.

The Shahar rule Earth and the Solar System through an arrangement which is designed to encourage human loyalty to the Family of Species rather than local governments or institutions. They replaced most of the human political divisions with a new system of administrative provinces, each with a few million inhabitants.

Each province is controlled by a Provincial Administrator. The Administrators are humans or Tarcaseru in areas deemed sufficiently loyal, but in unreliable zones they are always Shahar. The Administrator commands a police force of 1,000 to 5,000 human officers; military forces are not under the Administrator's control.

The provinces in turn are grouped into large regions of about 100 million people. The 49 regions of Earth each have a Shahar Tharshen (literally "leader of families"), who controls both the provincial administrators and the regional military forces. Tharshens have wide authority in governing their regions.

Off Earth, the outposts in Earth orbit and on the Moon are organized as a single Region with only two million people, and there is another Region incorporating Mars and the outer Solar System, which has a total of one million inhabitants.

All 51 Regions are under the ultimate authority of the Tharshathar (literally, "leader of leaders"), who is the ruler of the Solar System and answers to the Social Engineers on Ahur.

Technology

The Shahar and the Enershakun in general are a mature TL9. Earth and the human outposts in the Solar System are a mix of old TL8 and new TL9 equipment.

The Tube Drive

One "emergent superscience" which enabled the Shahar to conquer other civilizations is the Tube Drive, or Hetharushath. It creates a temporary wormhole linking distant points in space. The Tube Drive gets around relativity by rearranging the geometry of spacetime. Tube Drives are incredibly power-hungry, and only the biggest spacecraft can carry one. The effect lasts several minutes, so a whole task force can use the wormhole created by a single large ship.

Tube Drives only work in a relatively weak gravity field. They don't function within the orbit of Mars, and ships must stay at least half a million miles away from Jupiter. The path between the ship and the target system must be clear of solid matter or dense gas, and can't pass through any gravity fields. The maximum practical distance for a single wormhole is currently half a light-year, so on an interstellar voyage ships must make multiple hops. From Earth to Ahur is about 50 light-years, which takes more than 100 wormhole hops. Each jump requires at least 2 hours to accomplish, sometimes more depending on the power plant available.

The nature of the Tube Drive affects Shahar strategy. The ships with drives are large and incredibly expensive. They are seldom risked in direct combat. Instead, fighting is done by smaller craft, often using strap-on boosters.

Biotechnology

The Shahar are advanced in biotechnology, reaching TL10 in some areas. Their specialties are genetic engineering and a thorough knowledge of alien biochemistries. This lets them create tailored diseases, modify their subject species, and improve their own genome. Brain-manipulation equipment is not available; the Shahar still don't understand the neuroanatomy of the various species they rule to be able to link up directly to them.

Military Forces

With the Solar System finally pacified, the Shahar have significantly reduced their military commitment in the region. The ships and troops are needed elsewhere, and the threat from rebellious humans seems to have ended. Increasingly the job of maintaining order falls to human military forces.

Space Forces

The Shahar space forces in the Solar System no longer contains any major offensive units. The great carriers and giant weapon platforms have gone off elsewhere. There are a handful of light starships to defend the system from external threats, some patrol craft to monitor inhabited worlds and protect commerce, and a small group of high-speed transports to allow rapid response to disturbances.

Ground Troops

Today there are about half a million Shahar and Gustrogin troops on Earth. The 20 Shahar divisions are mostly armor, artillery, aircraft, and special warfare units. They are accompanied by an infantry force of 20 Gustrogin divisions. The Shahar and Gustrogins are grouped into 3 rapid-reaction armies of 10 divisions each. The armies are based in Colombia, Egypt, and Vietnam, with a fourth hunting rebels in the Alaska-Siberia region.

Integrated Human Forces

Human units under Shahar command are now by far the largest military force in the Solar System. There are currently 67 human divisions with Shahar officers. Half are armed and equipped with pre-invasion TL8 gear. The other half are TL9 light infantry, either motorized or airborne. Each Region has a garrison of one or two Integrated divisions.

In addition to the infantry divisions, humans also man the only naval force remaining on Earth, a fleet of aging TL8 cruisers, destroyers and gunboats left over from before the invasion. Most coastal Regions have a couple of small boats for patrol. The cruiser and destroyer squadrons are based in Japan, Capetown, and Panama. Though they are supposed to patrol the high seas, the Shahar really still don't trust the navy completely, and are content to let the ships rust in port. A division of Qasuti undersea troops supplement the navy, and are stationed at the same bases.

Species

Designer's Note

I wanted the aliens to be hard-SF aliens rather than the space opera style "men in suits" type. The Shahar social and genetic engineering lets me get away with "typecasting" each species as warriors, bureaucrats, etc. Each species has some potential adventure hooks, either as potential allies or enemies of the rebel humans.

Shahar

The Shahar are bipeds, with powerful hind legs for running and leaping. Their forelimbs are short and tipped with nasty-looking claws, and the four jointed limbs which serve in place of jaws have sharp tips (the feeding arms function as a single "hand" and so are bought as one Extra Arm). Their skin is smooth and colored a mottled gray-green. They see with a single eye, optimized for distance vision. Shahar have extremely complex voiceboxes, and can produce a vast array of sounds. Their language includes overtones and harmonics humans simply can't perceive.

Shahar home gravity is 0.92G, and their comfortable temperature range is 55 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. On Earth they must wear filter masks to combat the high concentration of oxygen, but can breathe normally at altitudes of 10,000 feet or more. Point cost is 70 on Earth.

Attribute Modifiers: IQ+1 [20], DX+1 [20], HT+2 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Basic Speed +0.25 [5], Per+1 [5].
Advantages: Acute Hearing +2 [2], Discriminatory Hearing [15], Extra Arm (short, -50%), [5], Extended Lifespan 1 [2], Fearlessness +1 [2], Sensitive [5], Sharp Claws [5], Social Regard (alien overlord, +1) [5], Telescopic Vision 1 [5], Ultrahearing [5].
Disadvantages: Ham-Fisted [-5], No Peripheral Vision [-15], One Eye [-15], Short Arms [-10], Weakness (excess oxygen, 1d per 5 minutes, Fatigue only -50%, mitigated by filter mask -60%) [-6].
Quirks: Attentive, Chauvinistic [-2].

Gustrogins

The Gustrogins are large, powerful creatures, and the Shahar have done their best to turn them into docile workers. Using highly intelligent beings as so many draft animals is a waste of resources, but some human xenologists suspect the Shahar have deliberately made the Gustrogins occupy an inferior role to conceal the fact that they are far superior to their "masters."

Gustrogins have six limbs -- two arms, two legs, and a middle pair which can be used as either. When standing on four legs they are two meters tall, but can rear up to four meters on their hind legs. Their taste and smell are exceptional, but other senses are poor. Ancestral Gustrogins had a harem system, but the Shahar have almost eliminated the males because they are too aggressive and hard to control. A small number of Gustrogin males live in special compounds on Gustrog under heavy Shahar guard, and all reproduction is by artificial insemination.

The Gustrogin homeworld (Gustrog) is slightly larger than Earth, with a gravity of 1.1 and an atmospheric pressure of 90%. It is a chilly planet, and the comfort range for Gustrogins is 20 to 75 degrees.

The template represents a female Gustrogin, as males are never encountered on Earth. Males add +4 ST, Bad Temper, Code of Honor, Lecherousness, and the Social Stigma "Valuable Property." Point cost for both sexes is 104 points.

Attribute Modifiers: ST+10 [100], HT+2 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Per-2 [-10].
Advantages: Acute Taste/Smell +6 [12], Discriminatory Smell [15], Extended Lifespan 1 [2], 2 Extra Arms (leg manipulators reduce move by half when used as arm, -2 manual DX, -60%) [8], 2 Extra Legs (can move at half on two legs, +20%) [12], Versatile [5].
Disadvantages: Bad Sight (mitigated with lenses, -60%) [-10], Ham-Fisted [-5], Increased Consumption (4 meals per day) [-10], Restricted Diet (citrus fruit and pickles) [-10], Weakness (capsicum peppers, 1d/minute if touched or eaten) [-20].
Quirks: Congenial, Dreamer, Nosy, Proud, Sensitive [-5].

Qasuti

The Qasuti are aquatic organisms, sometimes called "star crabs" by Terrans. They are radially symmetrical, with two body segments each bearing five limbs. The rear limbs are swimming fins, and propel the Qasuti at a rapid pace underwater. The forward limbs are for catching food, building shelters, and fighting. A Qasut's body is covered with an exoskeleton, and when the forward arms are folded back they are sleek and streamlined. Unusually, a Qasut's eyes are located on its arms, just behind the pincers. A Qasut's body is a squat blimp shape a meter long, but with fins and pincers extended, the length is closer to two meters.

Qasuti come from a world with no land at all, and their ocean is somewhat more acidic than the waters of Earth. Qasuti can't eat any Terrestrial foods at all, and must wear protective suits to prevent long-term health problems from swimming in alien seawater.

While the Shahar consider the Qasuti a completely integrated and loyal species, they may be deluding themselves. The Qasuti consider the Shahar to be their dupes, helping them spread across the Galaxy and doing all the "heavy lifting" of conquest while the Qasuti simply take over all the watery parts of the Shahar empire.

Humans and Qasuti often have difficulty communicating because of the extremely alien nature of their minds. They have great difficulty "quantizing" things or breaking them up into units, rather than considering things as a continuum. To humans, all their ideas seem maddeningly fuzzy, while to Qasuti, humans (and Shahar) are apparently incapable of perceiving subtleties. Because they are aquatic, home gravity isn't especially important, and their comfortable temperature range is 25 to 80 degrees. Point cost for Qasuti is 56 points on Earth, 76 on their home planet.

Attribute Modifiers: ST -1 [-10], DX -1 [-20], HT+2 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Basic Speed +0.75 [15].
Advantages: 360-degree vision [25], Acute Hearing +2 [2], Discriminatory Hearing (underwater only, -30%) [10], Doesn't Breathe (gills, underwater only) [0], Enhanced Move (water speed 12) [20], 3 Extra Arms [30], Sharp Claws [5].
Disadvantages: Aquatic [0], Callous [-5], Loner [-5], Restricted Diet (native food only) [-20], Xenophilia [-10].
Quirks: Staid [-1].

Tarcaseru

The Tarcaseru serve the Shahar as a caste of administrators, bureaucrats, and middle managers. They are by far the most loyal of the Family of Species; if anything they are more devoted to the concept than the Shahar themselves.

Their homeworld is a large, low-density planet poor in metals and heavy elements, which retarded their technological development by several millennia. During that time they evolved a very complex, stable society controlled by a hereditary caste of scribes; when the Shahar arrived, the Tarcaseru scribes effectively inserted themselves into the alien society in much the same role.

Physically, Tarcaseru are small, lithe bipeds with two arms, a tail, and scaly skin which makes them look rather like dinosaurs. The head is the most distinctive feature: a round skull with three independently movable eyes and a set of complicated biting and grinding mouthparts.

They have a very low tolerance for any metals, and cannot eat most Terran plants except those which grow in water. Tarcaseru on Earth must take chelating tablets to avoid potentially dangerous metals in the water they drink (this is a long-term health effect, and so counts as a 0-point disadvantage). They are situational hermaphrodites: a well-fed Tarcaser is female, while a hungry one is male.

A Tarcaser stands about four feet tall, and is native to a gravity of 0.75G. Their comfortable temperature range is extremely warm, even more so than the Shahar: 70 to 125 degrees. On Earth they often go about in heavy furs. Point cost to be a Tarcaser is 36 points.

Attribute Modifiers: ST -1 [-10], DX +1 [20]
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Per +2 [10].
Advantages: 360-degree vision [25], Enhanced Tracking 2 [10].
Disadvantages: Bad Grip [-5], Restricted Diet (only water plants and fungi) [-10].
Quirks: Careful [-1], Distractible [-1], Imaginative [-1], Responsive [-1].
Features: Diet-controlled hermaphrodites.

The Ascended

The Ascended have a fascinating evolutionary history. On their homeworld, the shallow seas are dotted with thousands of islands covered by large groves of trees which thrive in the seawater and form canopies of jungle across the shallows. The ancestors of the Ascended were tentacled undersea predators who began to climb out of the water to hunt and scavenge in the forest canopy. Over millions of years they evolved stronger arms, excellent binocular vision, and the ability to live out of water for days at a time.

Ascended civilization is quite old. By the time the first Shahar expeditions reached their home system, the Ascended homeworld was surrounded by a belt of orbital habitats, home to tens of millions of individuals.

Their lack of political unity was what enabled the Shahar to conquer the Ascended. Ascended civilization never developed large states; their "natural" polity is apparently a small community of a few hundred, jealously territorial and fiercely independent. Ascended communities also function as economic enterprises, like a combination small town, collective farm, kibbutz, and corporation. The Shahar were able to snap them up one at a time, often allying with a coalition of rival communities to defeat a powerful one.

They are completely silent, communicating by color-changes and sign language. They have four powerful arms for climbing and walking, and four smaller tentacles for feeding. Unlike Terran cephalopods they cannot use jet propulsion underwater. Ascendeds have excellent vision, with four eyes -- two optimized for underwater darkness and two set close together for depth perception among the treetops. They are omnivores, tending more to meat-eating. Home gravity for the Ascended is 0.8G.

The template below depicts a modified Ascended with a Shahar drug implant for personality regulation. Without it their self-control numbers for Bad Temper, Loner, and Selfish are 9- instead of 15-. Since they are citizens of an interstellar state, there is no disadvantage for inhuman appearance. Cost with the implant is 53 points; cost without is 33 points.

Attribute Modifiers: ST-2 [-20], DX+1 [20].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Basic Move -4 (walking only, -50%) [-10], Per+2 [10], FP-2 [-6].
Advantages: Amphibious [10], Brachiator [5], 2 Extra Arms (extra-flexible, +50%) [30], 4 Extra Arms (foot manipulators, -30%) [28], Flexibility [5], Gills [10], Immunity (all forms of space or motion sickness) [10], Mute (mitigated by talking hand computers, -60%) [-10], Nicitating Membrane 1 [1], Night Vision 5 [5], No Neck [5], Temperature Tolerance 1 (30 to 95 degrees) [1].
Disadvantages: Bad Temper (15) [-5*], Curious [-5*], Dependency (seawater, weekly) [ 10], Hard of Hearing (not in water, -10%) [-9], Loner (15) [-2*], Oblivious [-5], Selfish (15) [-2*].
Quirks: Broad-Minded [-1], Careful [-1], Imaginative [-1].
* Control numbers include effect of drug implant.
Features: Skin changes color with mood.

New Humans

Also known as Shuman, Shiseiji, and many more unprintable terms. If the Shahar get their way, these are the future of humanity. Among Wild Humans, New Humans get a -2 reaction penalty, but not among the bulk of the population. Point cost for a New Human is 4.

Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: Will -1 [-5].
Advantages: High Manual Dexterity +2 [10], Single-Minded [5]
Disadvantages: Selfless [-5].
Quirks: Sterile (can be reversed by hormone shots) [-1].

Wild Humans

Designer's Note

I wanted to provide a range of human rebel groups to support different campaign styles. The Seawolves are good for straight military adventure. The Immunes lend themselves to paranoia and intrigue. The Miranda group allows space adventure and the chance to voyage to other star systems. The Resistance is best for small-scale rebel activities, and makes a good starter frame for low-powered characters. Several of the original chapter vignettes chronicled the exploits of the Alien Fighter Army.

The human groups who are still actively trying to fight off the alien conquerers are known as "Wild Humans" both among themselves and to the Shahar. That they have managed to survive at all is impressive, but their lack of cooperation has greatly reduced their effectiveness at fighting the aliens.

The Immune

The Immune are humans who survived the Pacification Plague. They and their descendants are naturally resistant to the virus. The trait is recessive, however, so only children of two Immune parents are themselves Immunes (though they do carry the gene). All Immunes have the advantage Immunity to Pacification Plague [5 points].

Immunes have gathered in Great Britain, which was hit hard during the initial invasion. Today there are nearly two million Immunes living in the rebuilt sections of London. As one might expect, they are a mix of peoples from all over the Earth.

Organization

The Immune community has an organization which is both very informal and very secure. Families are the most important unit of Immune society, and the most prominent members of each family meet with other leaders to reach decisions. At the top are the inner circle known as "Elders" (though age is not the only qualification). One's importance within the Immune power structure largely mirrors one's social role in everyday life, so that the Elders are all people with substantial personal influence and resources.

The clannishness of Immune society makes it very hard for anyone to infiltrate, and it feeds on and reinforces the need to keep the existence of the Immunes secret from outsiders.

The Immunes do not have much in the way of military hardware or weapons. They do maintain a few caches of small arms and explosives, but those are mostly for use defending the secret of the Immunes rather than for fighting the Shahar. Their biggest asset is simply their numbers and loyalty, as they have gradually infiltrated much of the Shahar administration in the ten provinces of the British Isles. This gives them excellent sources of information and a limited ability to influence policy by altering information.

Goals and Methods

The Immune leadership takes a very long view. Their plan is simply to exist and conceal their nature. Over time they will increase their numbers and gain access to higher positions within the Shahar government. They do have extremely good internal security and deep-cover infiltration techniques, and are very well-disciplined. They almost never resort to direct action, and on the very rare occasions when Immune leaders have authorized violence, the operations have been very thoroughly planned, with an emphasis on total secrecy.

Staying hidden is the keystone of Immune strategy. This means they must avoid any testing which might reveal their virus resistance. To compensate, a substantial proportion of Immunes have gone into medical professions. This also allows them to search for carriers of the Immune gene, and falsify records to conceal oddities in the distribution of antiviral drugs.

A small sub-faction of Immunes insist that the Shahar will eventually discover their existence, and either develop a completely new Pacification Plague or simply round up all the Immunes. This group wans to make common cause with other rebel factions and prepare for war. As yet, they have had no influence on the leaders.

Relations with Other Factions

The Immune are not on the best of terms with the other rebel groups. Many Immune leaders believe that the Shahar antiviral drugs somehow "tainted" the recipients, so that everyone who is not n Immune is no longer a true human. Most Earth-based wild humans think the Immunes are nothing more than an unusually eccentric Resistance band; only the top Seawolf command knows otherwise. They have limited contact with the Miranda colony, and a handful of Immunes have been smuggled off Earth to Miranda in the hope of eventually creating a resistant population there.

Sea Wolves

The Shahar homeworld is drier than Earth, and quirks of continental drift left it with few large ocean basins or strategic waterways. Naval warfare was never a major part of Shahar military thinking. During the invasion the Shahar were unable to locate many Terran submarines. Twenty subs -- mostly American and Russian -- were ordered to remain hidden as the nucleus of a resistance force. Over the past decades the submariners established secret bases in the Arctic and on the sea floor, made contact with other resistance organizations, and trained up new sailors to carry on the fight.

Leadership and Structure

The Seawolves consider themselves a military force and so have a very well-defined chain of command. The entire service is under the control of the SCAN (Supreme Commander, Allied Navies). Noncombatants are under Naval discipline.

Bases and Assets

At present the Seawolves have 12 nuclear submarines, carefully maintained and upgraded whenever possible with stolen Shahar technology. They also have a handful of small minisubs, surface boats, and a growing number of aircraft. Over the years the Seawolves have stolen or built a number of special weapons, including nuclear X-ray laser warheads to knock out Shahar spacecraft and satellites, a powerful EMP weapon capable (in theory) of destroying electronics in an entire continent, and a giant particle accelerator occupying the whole length of a nuclear attack sub.

There are four main Seawolf bases. The biggest is Svoboda ("Freedom") on the sea floor north of Siberia. The core of the base is a Cold War relic: a hidden Soviet submarine resupply station. Today it is a cramped but thriving town of nearly 10,000 people, and is where most of the Seawolf construction and maintenance facilities are located. Next-largest is the semi-public base at Ducie Island, near Pitcairn Island in the Pacific. The Ducie settlement is apparently an outpost of refugees, living a simple life fishing and farming. Most of the Seawolf children and elderly live on Ducie.

The third biggest base is the research lab and backup maintenance facility on the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Amery is where the Seawolves analyze captured Shahar technology and try to develop weapons and countermeasures for use against the aliens. The smallest permanent Seawolf enclave is an underground complex on Ellesmere Island in northern Canada. It has powerful radio and optical monitoring equipment, and is used for eavesdropping on Shahar communications traffic and observing their ships in space. It is also a backup weapons store, and has the Seawolves' supply of land-based anti-space missiles.

Goals and Tactics

The Seawolves are not interested in anything less than the defeat of the Shahar. To accomplish this, they are pursuing three main goals. First, learning as much about enemy capabilities and weaknesses as possible. Second, developing weapons to use against them. Third, keeping the flame of resistance alive and remaining a force in being.

Intelligence-gathering is done by a variety of means. The Seawolves maintain contact with land-based resistance groups. Sometimes they make use of resistance organizations to support espionage missions by navy personnel. They also have an extensive network of listening and observation posts. The Seawolves are undoubtedly the best-informed faction of Wild Humans.

Weapon development has lagged behind, due to a crippling lack of scientists. The Seawolves do their best to figure out captured Shahar equipment, and have refitted some of their subs with alien weaponry.

Finally, supporting resistance and protecting their own existence is the task which takes up most of the resources of the Seawolves. They try to stay in contact with all of the other resistance groups. They also raid commercial shipping when no Shahar satellites are overhead.

Relations with Other Factions

The Seawolves try to remain on good terms with anyone who wants to fight the Shahar. They stay in touch with the Miranda colony via encrypted radio burst transmissions, and have agents all over the Earth. While most of the other resistance factions are grateful for the support and information the Seawolves provide, they do generate a certain amount of resentment because of their attitude that they are the only "real professionals" fighting the Shahar.

The Miranda Colony

During the chaos of the invasion, four human spacecraft managed to remain hidden, and arranged a rendezvous in orbit about the planet Uranus. The crews took refuge in the maze-like interior of the moon Miranda, and over the past 50 years the colony has grown to a population of 239 people. The Miranda colony has been carrying out a vast project to build self-replicating robot mining machinery and automated factories, so the human population is now dwarfed by the number of robots on Miranda -- approximately 20,000. With their robotic labor force, the Miranda group can offer immense space-based industrial capacity in the event of a full-scale revolt against the Shahar.

Leadership and Structure

The Miranda colony is entirely democratic, with all major decisions made by a vote of the adult population. Oversight of specific projects is assigned to individuals, who must report to the colony as a whole from time to time.

Because direct neural-interface links are part of daily life for the Miranda community, much of their decision-making is done over the colony's computer network. To outsiders, this makes the Miranda group look a lot like some kind of creepy hive mind. Coupled with their lavish use of cybernetic implants, this gives them an unsettling resemblance to sinister cyborgs in pre-invasion SF movies.

Bases and Assets

The colony is a large underground complex inside the Uranian moon Miranda. The moon's interior is a maze of faults and fracture planes, with large natural voids. The colony's mining operations have expanded on the original caves to create a vast network of passages and chambers extending hundreds of kilometers. The colony is now comfortably large for its few human inhabitants, and their hydroponic farms produce a steady (if not very diverse) supply of food.

To launch vehicles without telltale rocket flares, the colonists built a large magnetic catapult. Its exit is disguised as a crater, and waste heat is dumped into the moon's icy interior. Using the catapult, the Miranda rebels can put unmanned spacecraft anywhere in the Solar System with minimal chance of detection.

Of the four spacecraft which brought the refugees to Miranda, two had to be cannibalized to create the colony in the first place. The other two have been upgraded and armed, and are the core of a growing space fleet.

Objectives

The Miranda group is facing a crisis. The old rebels who dreamed of leading a robot armada to liberate Earth are becoming a minority. They are opposed by a newer faction which proposes to seek out a new home for humanity among the stars. Since both sides agree that there is a need for more spacecraft, the colony is expanding the shipyards. But until they can reach consensus and decide whether to build insystem warships or interstellar arks, very few craft are actually being launched.

Relations With Other Factions

The Miranda colony is physically the most isolated Wild Human group, and that makes it hard for them to keep in touch with the other factions. The Mirandans almost never communicate directly with Earth. Instead they use repeater drones or stealthy spacecraft to get messages to contacts on Mars or Earth, while satellites or probes pick up transmissions for relay to Miranda.

They have limited but secure contact with the Seawolves. The Mirandans see the Seawolves as reliable allies, but worry that their focus on Earth itself is too narrow. They have very little contact with the Immunes, since Mirandan cybernetic augmentation plays into the Immune attitude that they are the only true humans left. Their chief allies among the Resistance are the Alien Fighter Army in Japan and the Red Freedom group on Mars.

The Resistance

The Resistance is the term for a very loose, widespread group of rebels against the Shahar, spread across Earth and Mars. Its very diffuse nature has made it hard for the Shahar to wipe out completely, but it also limits the effectiveness of what could otherwise be the most powerful Wild Human group.

Leadership and Structure

The Resistance is made up of a great variety of groups with many different styles of organization. In North America and Australia, Resistance cells are mostly "militia" units with elected officers and a quasi-military chain of command. In Europe and Latin America the Resistance follows the classic "cell" structure. Chinese and Russian groups are based on old criminal groups like the "Mafiya" or tongs. In South Asia and Africa the Resistance is less formally structured, and is usually based on family alliances. Japan's Resistance is an odd fusion of pre-invasion "Otaku" clubs and paranormal cultists, who call themselves the "Alien Fighter Army."

Bases and Assets

The one common element of Resistance groups is their desperate shortage of supplies and equipment. Most have nothing but small arms, with maybe a few old anti-tank rockets or grenades. In rural areas they may have a secret headquarters -- often an old bomb shelter.

What the Resistance does have is numbers. Worldwide there are nearly three million members. Unfortunately, this means the Resistance has the worst security of any of the Wild factions.

The most powerful Resistance sub-group is the Siberian Freedom Army, which preserves a remnant of the old Russian army and finances itself through protection rackets and vice operations at Siberian mining operations. The Siberian Freedom Army works closely with the Sea Wolves, and would likely be the nucleus of any land forces the submariners organize in the event of a general uprising.

Goals and Tactics

While all Resistance groups want to defeat the Shahar, most have secondary goals, usually related to how things will be run after the aliens leave. Conflict among Resistance cells is chronic, and probably half the Shahar arrests of Resistance members are sparked by anonymous tips from rivals within the movement.

Most Resistance groups content themselves with producing anti-Shahar propaganda, recruiting new members, and scrounging weapons to stockpile against The Day. More adventurous groups engage in small-scale sabotage, raids on isolated Shahar and occupation outposts, and occasional espionage.

Relations with Other Factions

As one would expect from a chaotic, undisciplined rebel movement, Resistance relations with other factions are changeable and unreliable. The Seawolves maintain ties with certain Resistance groups, especially the Siberian Freedom Army and the People's Liberation Force. The Immunes don't trust the Resistance at all, but a faction of the more activist Immunes have formed their own Resistance network in south Britain. The Miranda colony has made very tentative contact with the Alien Fighters Army in Japan.

Beyond Earth

Designer's Note

One purpose of the Solar System section was to provide a "gazeteer" of the planets and moons in GURPS Space statistics. I've cut most of that out here in order to focus on the places relevant to the struggle against the Shahar.

Though the heart of the conflict between humans and Shahar is on Earth, both the Wild Humans and the aliens have operations on other worlds in the Solar System.

Earth Orbit and Luna

The invasion destroyed everything in Earth orbit, and the resulting debris coupled with some last-ditch "space denial weapons" fired by the Terrans left an unsafe zone stretching from the upper edge of the atmosphere all the way to geosynchronous orbit. For years Shahar spacecraft had to rendezvous with armored shuttles in high orbit.

A costly sweeping operation has been going on for 30 years now. The heart of the project are two giant "Dustpails" made of thick Kevlar reinforced with carbon nanotubes and layers of aerogel. Each Dustpail is a cone 100 meters wide and 200 meters long, controlled by steering jets on the rim of the mouth. They circle the Earth in elliptical retrograde orbits, swinging between geosynch and low orbit against the normal orbital motion of the debris, scooping up fragments with each pass.

The chance of getting hit by debris is low enough for spacecraft to visit Earth without much danger, but still too high for permanent bases in orbit. In low orbit (up to 200 miles altitude) and geosynchronous orbit, where the debris is most concentrated, a spacecraft has a 1 in 200 chance per hour of getting hit by something big enough to do damage (roll 3d each hour, on a 3 the vehicle takes 1d damage). Between geosynch and low orbit the chance is 1 in 200 per day.

Because Earth orbit is so unsafe, the Shahar concentrate their space assets in lunar orbit or on the surface of the Moon. The heart of their lunar presence is the old Chinese base at Mare Fecundatis, which has been enlarged into a city of 100,000 people (about half humans, with the rest Shahar, Ascended, Tarcaseru, and New Humans).

Mars

When the Shahar invasion fleet arrived, there were already 150 people on Mars. The Shahar decided to continue the terraforming program. Their technology has greatly accelerated the project, and today there are a million people on Mars and its moons. Half are New Humans, another fourth are unmodified humans, and the remainder are Shahar and Ascended.

The primary settlement on Mars is the orbital elevator terminal atop Pavonis Mons. There, a multilevel city occupies the whole mountaintop, and is home to 300,000 people. Pavonis City also houses the Shahar garrison unit for Mars: two regiments of human infantry (2,000 troops) and a squadron of Shahar aerospace fighters.

Rebel activity on Mars is limited by the hostile environment. Any overt resistance would have disastrous results. The Shahar have used a sophisticated program of memetic warfare to channel dissent among Martians into anti-Terran sentiment.

Miranda

Miranda is the smallest and innermost of Uranus's five large moons. It circles the planet every 34 hours, and keeps one face to Uranus. Miranda's diameter is 217 miles, and its surface gravity is about 0.015 G. The local temperature is typically -335 degrees Fahrenheit. Uranus orbits the Sun at an average distance of about 19 AU, taking 84 years to make a circuit.

Miranda is a mass of rock and ice with a curious patchwork appearance. At some point in its history Miranda was shattered by an impact with a large body, and the fragments recombined in a new arrangement. The interior of Miranda is a maze of fractures and chasms, which the colonists have used to hide their base, deep beneath Prospero crater.

Outside the Solar System

Designer's Note

The biggest problem with creating a setting with Earth under the heel of alien invaders was to avoid too much similarity to David Pulver's Reign of Steel setting. That meant the invasion had to be as bloodless and non-destructive as possible, so that this isn't a postapocalyptic landscape.

I also wanted to give the aliens ostensibly benevolent motives. They think they're doing good, and there's a significant number of humans who have come to agree with them. That means the rebellion is as much a war of ideas as it is one of guns and bombs. It should be possible to run a low-combat campaign in which convincing key individuals is as effective as blowing stuff up.

The Shahar control 14 star systems, occupying a roughly egg-shaped volume of space 100 light-years long by 50 wide, extending toward the constellation Scorpio. The Shahar home system lies near the center.

The Gustrogin and Tarcaser home systems are on the far side of the egg, fairly close together. Qas, the Qasuti homeworld, is the closest to Earth, and was the staging area for the conquest of humanity. The Ascended home system is somewhat apart from the others, "up" along the Galactic axis from Ahur.

In addition to the home systems there are eight colony systems within Shahar space. The newest colony project is the planet Karar, along the route between Earth and Qas.

Karar

The Karar system is the only other place where humans are found in large numbers. It is a binary K2 pair with a large gas giant orbiting one partner. The giant has six large moons, of which two are lifebearing worlds and a third is a promising subject for terraforming. All three moons are tidally locked to their giant primary.

The inner moon is entirely covered by ocean. The majority of inhabitants are Qasuti, but there are half a dozen floating settlements for other species. The population is 260,000, of which 15,000 are New Humans.

The third moon is the size of Mars and has a thriving native biosphere. The Shahar colony has a population of just under 1 million, including 50,000 New Humans.

The fourth moon is the largest, with a mass half that of Earth, but an unbreathable methane atmosphere. The Shahar plan to terraform it, and there is a small base with a few New Humans among the staff.

The Wild Humans of the Solar System know little about the human colonists at Karar. Presumably they are there as a test of their ability to fit into the Family of Species structure. One key unknown is how the success or failure of the project will affect the rest of humanity. If the New Humans turn out to be a bad fit with the Shahar and their other subject species, will the Shahar try more modifications -- or choose extermination?




Article publication date: April 14, 2006


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