Copyright 2002 by Brandon Cope
One of the more interesting features of science-fiction is the presence of (often) strange and enigmatic alien races. Whether they're misunderstood bug-eyed monsters who need women for Mars or piles of sentient slime trying to buy the earth so they can put through an off-ramp for a wormhole, aliens are a major part of most science fiction campaigns. Unfortunately, creating a new alien race is one of the most difficult tasks facing a game master. While many GMs borrow aliens from literature and other game systems, there is still quite a bit of work to do, and even then it is very possible that the players are already familiar with the race.
With this in mind, the following races, ranging from the animalistic salakar to the mysterious tridivans, are presented for integration into any science fiction game. Each race is described in enough detail to be used as-is, though GMs should customize as needed for their particular campaigns. They are suitable for use in various roles such as an adventure focus, sidetrek or even as a plot complication. Stats are provided for GURPS®, but the races can easily be adapted to other systems or even other genres such as fantasy or horror. For GURPS, the Primitive disadvantages assume a campaign Tech Level of 10 for GURPS Traveller® (and generic space settings) and TL 3 for fantasy.
In a GURPS Traveller campaign, all of the races would qualify minor races, although no one is sure where the tridivans got their jump drive technology from. While the tridivans would need to be located outside the boundaries of any of the major powers, the other races could easily be placed in
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A salakar is a mammal vaguely resembling a large cat with ape-like features and could easily be mistaken for a normal, if unusually clever, animal. It can walk on its two hind legs but normally moves on all four limbs. Its fur ranges from light to dark tan with black or dark blue vertical stripes. A salakar has a single multi-lensed eye, much like an insect's. It has difficulty distinguishing colors, but has a very wide field of vision and can see into the infared and ultraviolet spectrums. Speed on two legs is half normal human speed, but is double human speed on all fours. Salakars weigh 55 kg (120 lbs) and stand 1.4 m (4'7") on two legs and 1.1 m (3'7") on all fours. They have a life span of about twenty-two years and female salakar have a litter of 3-5 pups every eight months. It takes about two years for a pup to reach maturity.
Salakar have no written language and their spoken one consists of less than two hundred words, most of them dealing with hunting. They have no personal names, instead using a combination of generic names (Mother, Leader, Hunter, Child, etc.) and pointing. This makes it difficult to refer to individuals who are not present. The language itself is made up of barks and growls, and some body language. What few skills they have are related to hunting and survival. Their society has a structure similar to that of Terran wolves, the pack being lead by an Alpha male (Status +2). Next are other males (Status +1), females (Status 0), pups (Status -1) and outcasts (Status -3).
Pups and pregnant females and will be protected by any means unless such a defense could destroy the pack. Salakar will flee humans unless the pack is near starvation, the females and young are in danger or the salakar greatly outnumber the humans. Their religion consists of little more than respect (and fear) for various nature spirits which manifest themselves in occurrences such as tornados, floods and brush fires (this is an early version of animism). Punishment for infractions against the pack and the spirits ranges from shunning (treating the offender as a non-person for several days) for minor offences to exile (which usually amounts to a death sentence) for severe offences. Outcasts' tails are clipped to half length using a stone axe as a sign to other packs of their status.
Salakar prefer temperate forests with a mild climate and few large predators. They are stalking carnivores, but normally feed on small (1-10 kg or 2-20 lb) animals, and usually attack by biting, though sometimes they throw rocks or use short, thick branches as clubs. Salakars hunt in groups, each one containing about 3-4 of the adult males of the pack, plus one or two adolescent pups. A salakar pack wanders over a wide area, averaging 1000 square kilometers (400 square miles), and are very territorial. When a pack become fairly large (over thirty members), some of the younger adult members will leave, forming new packs with those leaving other packs for the same reason. This not only aids in the survival of individual packs, but keeps inbreeding down. Salakar packs do not fight each other, except in extreme situations (a pack encountering an outcast may do as it pleases, however).
Campaign Uses: Since many scientists place salakars on the borderline between smart animals and protosapients, it would not be hard for various groups and organizations to classify them in whichever way was most beneficial to that group. The party could be given the job of protecting, exterminating or studying them, or perhaps they are the first to make contact. Salakars are strictly NPCs, as they are far too primitive for inclusion in a high-tech party.
Fantasy Notes: Salakars are not much different in a fantasy setting. They will stay away from civilized races (wilder elves and new colonies/settlements being the main exceptions). On the other hand, they may be found inhabiting the ruins of some forgotten city, especially one the party is searching for...
Stats: The race has DX +1 , HT +1 , IQ -3 [-25], +1 DR , Primitive (TL 0) [-50], Poverty: Dead Broke [-25], Social Stigma: Animal [-15], Color Blindness [-10], Illiteracy [-10], Dark Vision , One Eye [-15], Short Claws , Cutting Bite , Peripheral Vision  and Short Lifespan, for a total of -90 points (-60 points in a fantasy setting). Status is no better than -3 with respect to non-salakar. The salakar language is M/E (for mammals) but cannot be learned beyond level 8. Salakars may learn no other languages beyond this level, either.
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A manbren (plural: manbree) has a disconcerting resemblance to humaniti. They are tall bipeds with four arms and are covered with a very light fur, usually brown. Their heads are oval with completely black eyes and have slits for a nose. Head hair bears a slight semblance to yarn, making a manbren look like a giant horrific rag-doll. An average manbren is 120 kg (265 lbs), 2.3 m (7'6") and lives for up to fifty years, though illness and accident claims most by the age of thirty-five. They are omnivores, and practice farming and herding. Manbree females give birth to one or two children after an eight month gestation period and the young reach adulthood within eight years.
Manbree have an identifiable, if rather simple, tribal culture. There are two leaders in each tribe, the chieftain (secular affairs) and shaman (spiritual affairs). Manbree are very superstitious, and tend to see any strange occurrence as a serious (though not necessarily bad) omen. Their religion is fairly well developed for such a primitive race, involving a worship of Mother Earth and Father Sky and a reverence to the various elemental spirits. All members of a clan are considered children until they chose a mate, which occurs after their eighth year (when they reach physical maturity). A manbren is considered an elder when he or she reaches forty years of age.
Manbree have an unusually rich and flexible language for a developing race, though they have no written language. Clan history is passed down through songs and epic tales, learned by all clan members. A manbren name consists of a personal name of one or two syllables, plus an identifier, either the name of the father (for a child) or the manbren's occupation (for an adult). A manbren sometimes changes his personal name when moving from childhood to adulthood.
Manbree are semi-nomadic, with a clan rotating through several small, semi-permanent camps through the year. Clan warfare (amounting to little more than skirmishes) is common over campsites, but rare otherwise, and generally not very bloody. They are shy around humans and other starfaring races, but will sometimes trade their services as guides for minor equipment (usually TL 0 equipment manufactured with modern processes). Tribal social ranks are follows: the chieftain and shaman (Status +3), elders (Status +2), warriors (Status +1), laborers (Status +0), children and the disabled (Status -1) and outcasts (Status -3). All chieftains and shamans, and most warriors, are male. However, female elders have as much power as their male counterparts, and since females make up the bulk of the labor force, their opinions are respected by tribal leaders.
Manbree have no special natural attacks or defenses. They wear cured animal hides and their favored weapon is a short thrusting spear with a barbed head (treat as a normal spear, except that length and weight are halved, it cannot be thrown and when pulled out it does damage equal to half the original damage).
Campaign Uses: Manbree can be the barbaric natives on a colony world, keeping away from other races but knowing the location of important ruins. Or they might be the protected inhabitants of an interdicted world. A manbren could make a fairly interesting PC in a high-tech party, though vocations other than bodyguard or planet-side scout would be rare.
Fantasy Notes: Since they operate at a normal medieval technology, Manbree would fit perfectly as a PC or NPC race with little, if any, modification.
Stats: The race has ST +3 , DX -1 [-10], IQ -1 [-10], HT +2 , Two Extra Arms , Social Stigma: Barbarians [-10], Poverty: Poor [-10], Illiteracy [-10], Gigantism [-15], Primitive (TL 3) [-35], Appearance: Ugly [-25], Mild Shyness [-5] and Mild Delusion: Spirits are Real [-5], for a total of -55 points (-20 for fantasy). Note that Status applies only to other members of their race. When dealing with galactic society, Status will not be higher than 0. Their leather armor is PD 1, DR 1. The manbree language is M/A.
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Razaqs are a small triphibian race originating on a world with 94% surface water orbiting a G2 subdwarf star. They average 1.4m (4'7") in height and 22.5kg (50 lbs) in weight. Razaqs are basically humanoid, with the addition of a prominent head crest running front to back across the skull and leathery wings. The size and color of the crest is important to razaq social and mating encounters, though the distinctions are nearly invisible to non-razaqs. Their skin is smooth, running from light to dark green in color with brown or grey mottling, and the fingers and toes are webbed.
Despite being hollow-boned, razaqs can barely fly under their own power and most often simply glide. They are, however, excellent swimmers and can stay underwater indefinitely, as they have both gills and lungs. The wings do create a slight drag to swimming speed, however, reducing it by 10%. Most senses are comparable to those of humans, though razaqs have good vision in darkness (but not total darkness). Razaqs reproduce much like Terran frogs, with females lay a clutch of fifty to seventy eggs once a year, of which less than ten percent reach adulthood. Eggs hatch about four or five weeks and the tadpole stage lasts another six to eight months.
The razaq's development has been hampered by two major behavior characteristics: paranoia of and compulsive lying to all sapients outside their immediate community, both of which are linked survival traits. The extremely hostile ecology of the razaq's homeworld resulted in competition for food and shelter that was so fierce that only blood relatives were trusted. Everyone and everything else was seen as an enemy. Due to their environment, razaqs live in small communities of ten to forty members, excluding tadpoles. Their society is basically a social democracy, with all members having a voice in the affairs of the community, though older and more experienced members have more influence. The ultimate responsibility of a razaq is to the survival of his community and any member is expected to sacrifice anything (including his or her life) to keep the community safe.
Overall razaq technology is low, but the race is quite intelligent and creative, easily understanding higher technology if given the chance. In addition, they are highly developed in philosophy and organic engineering. Razaqs see their plight as the result of some angry god. Since over the centuries they never found a way to placate him, razaqs assume he can't be appeased and no longer bother to try, resulting in a rather fatalistic outlook. Razaqs are also skilled at adapting their environment to them by growing many things rather than build them.
In all, razaqs culture is somewhat bland and uneventful aside from freak hurricanes, rampaging predators and other communities making war on them. Cultures constantly at war with their environment rarely produce anything that isn't practical, and the razaqs are no exception. Even their language is dull; to aliens, a furious, screaming razaq sounds like he is apologizing. Most names are a combination of grunts and whistles, and descriptive in nature, though razaqs usually adopt human names around non-razaq; an alien trying to pronounce a razaq name sounds like a frog being trodden on.
Campaign Uses: Razaqs, if studied on their homeworld, present a nightmare for any xenologist who tries, though some government or organization would probably pay well for the attempt. Of course, being stranded on the planet would be quite an experience... Some razaqs are able to overcome (or at least suppress) their paranoia and compulsive lying. Such individuals make up the bulk of spacefaring razaqs, though most other races still consider them to be untrustworthy. Off-world razaq are popular as philosophers, geneticists and members of scout or survey organizations, which helps exploit their triphibian nature. A razaq in an adventuring party would prove to be an unusual companion.
Fantasy Notes: Most fantasy worlds have large coastal swamps or tropical islands, which are both good locations for razaq communities. They are similar to kobolds and gargoyles in that all three are physically unimposing and frequently provide unintentional comic relief.
Stats: Razaqs have ST -3 [-25], DX +1 , Hit Points -3 [-15], Amphibious , Winged Flight (limited) , Night Vision , Fragile (Hollow-Boned) [-20], Paranoia (not within clan, -50%) [-5], Compulsive Lying [-15], Duty (to community on 15 or less) [-15] and racial skills Flight at DX and Swimming at DX+3 [8 each], for a total of -30 points. Off-world razaqs normally drop Paranoia and Compulsive Lying and add a -2 Racial Reputation as being untrustworthy. In such a case change their Duty to a Sense of Duty to their community, reducing cost to -15 points. In addition, Razaqs lose fatigue at twice the normal rate when flying. Razaqs are TL 3, but since they quickly adapt to higher technology they do not (as a race) have the Primitive disadvantage.
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This imposing race has both insectival and reptilian characteristics. Tridivans have mantis-like heads and four exoskeletal arms, each of which ends in a four-fingered hand. While color-blind, their eyes offer a wide angle of vision. The rest of the body is covered by a thick grey hide except for the back which is protected by a dull green carapace, and they have a thick, fairly inflexible tail. Tridivans stand 2.2 m (7'4") tall and weigh 240 kg (530 lbs) and live up to 150 years. Each tridivan has male and female sexual organs, but only one set is functional over a given 8-10 year span, followed by a year of sterility as the change to the other sex occurs. There seems to be no visible physical or behavioral difference between sexes. Four or five eggs are laid twenty months after fertilization and hatch within three weeks, though usually only one of the hatchlings lives more than a year.
Tridivans are very capable warriors, able to engage two separate opponents at once, even with one-handed ranged weapons. This carries over to equipment use as well, as the race possesses a five-sectioned brain, with two arms and one eye linked to separate pairs and the fifth section serving as a master controller. Their lower arms are weaker and clumsier than the upper pair and are generally only used for minor tasks such as carrying equipment, reloading weapons and other light functions.
There is a great deal of speculation as to whether or not the tridivans are a natural race or an artificially constructed one. Their prohibition of non-Tridivans on their homeworld only encourages such wild theories. It is known that their homeworld, Tridiva, is a hot (30 degrees C, 116 degrees F) desert planet with 0.9 G gravity and a slightly oxygen-rich atmosphere orbiting a G3 main-sequence sun, and has a population of between 500-600 million.
While tridivans are physically impressive, they prefer to make their conquests through diplomatic or economic means, using war as a last resort. They have a very elaborate view of the afterlife and don't fear death (a tridivan won't try to hurry it up, though!). Their uncomplicated religion holds that their current physical form is only one stop in a long path a soul must travel as it seeks to become one with the universe. While they do not believe that such mortal concepts as good and evil have any bearing on the soul reaching an immortal state, tridivans as a race do have some strongly held mores. They will not attack a physically inferior foe except in self-defense or conduct a surprise attack unless a foe is much stronger. Nor may one tridivan stand against another of his race who is threatened by aliens (remaining neutral is acceptable, however), unless the tridivan under attack has committed crimes against his own race. In addition, though the race does not eat meat, rumors persist of them finding sapients a delicacy.
The tridivan language is an ancient and well-developed one, difficult for non-tridivans to speak. Their written language is just as difficult, using over eight thousand different characters (though one could get by knowing a mere 800-900). There are at least a dozen forms for each common noun, verb and adjective, each with a slightly different connotation. This makes translating the tridivan language difficult, and also makes it hard for tridivans to communicate in other languages, as they cannot effectively use body language. Tridivan names are long affairs, using a combination of hard and soft sounds (for examples, Gar'hkan'grat, Jaw'zak'haru and Faz'vox'kamt). Around non-tridivans, they will generally use only the last syllable (using the examples above, Grat, Haru and Kamt). It is believed that the first syllable is a family name, the second is a parent's name and the last is the individual's personal name, but researchers are unsure.
Tridivans are governed by a non-hereditary monarchy. Individuals are preoccupied with their social status and constantly seek to improve it. Given time, skill and luck, the lowliest tridivan can theoretically become king. It is worth noting that while such social climbing can become very hostile, murder is rarely used to improve one's position (or maintain it). This somewhat unstable system would normally cause problems when dealing with other races were it not for the fact that tridivans do not normally associate with other sapients. On the rare times they do, it is usually with ulterior motives. However, it is not uncommon to see individual tridivans in galactic society, though they will rarely take 'mundane' jobs (preferring occupations such as explorer, bodyguard and research scientist) and usually return to Tridiva after about a decade of living around other races.
Campaign Uses: The best thing about tridivans is that despite their fearsome appearance they are not simply space ogres. They are as intelligent as most races and more physically powerful than many others, and can be found in any occupation not ruled out due to their large size. A tridivan could prove an interesting addition to an adventuring party. Alternatively, an all-alien party might be hired to scout Tridiva to see what secrets, if any, it holds.
Fantasy Notes: Tridivans fit in well as an ancient, secretive race that tends to itself but is constantly bothered by other races seeking their accumulated knowledge or wealth. Since they have both reptilian and insectival characteristics, they may be an ancestor race of both lizard and insect men, or perhaps a long-forgotten hybrid of those two races.
Stats: Their Racial Package includes ST +2 , IQ +1 , Hit Points +3 , Two Extra Arms (at -3 ST and -2 DX) , Full Coordination , Independently Focusable Eyes , +1 PD (excludes legs and tail) , +4 DR , Peripheral Vision , Colorblind [-10], Appearance: Ugly [-25], Gigantism [-15], Code of Honor (see above) [-10] and the Racial Quirks: Suspicious of Other Races [-1] and Preoccupied With Status [-1], for a total of 119 points (124 points in a fantasy campaign). Their rumored taste for sapients does not count as a bad reputation, but it does aggravate any Racial Intolerance or Xenophobia characters may have (double penalties). The sight of a tridivan will affect someone with either a phobia of insects or reptiles. The tridivan language is Mental/Very Hard for other races.
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