Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 3: Species

Amusingly enough, the Terrans get the exact same format as all the other aliens: physiology, psychology, history, society, game stats, and suggested hooks. (It’s kind of cool to read about my own species in a game book without us all being painted as goose stepping racist xenophobes for once.) The rules for the hooks haven’t been described as of yet, so those of us reading cover to cover can’t fully understand the crunchy bits here. Also, I’m seeing things in the trait section that look and sound and awful lot like GURPS advantages– things like Ultra Immune System, Extra Limbs, Armor Restriction, and Natural Armor. I confused by this somewhat as based on Chapter one I was expecting that the system would be done only in terms of attributes, skills, hooks, and benefits.

For those keeping score... we are now good to go for half of the character types detailed in third edition Gamma World!

We get our first real taste of the meta-setting here. One nice thing about this set of species is that the only humanoids are those that are descended or derived from humans. This is a pretty good selection that covers a lot of key dramatic archetypes:

  • Myrmidon — These “super soldiers” fill the niche that has been carved by Star Trek’s Khan and Niven and Pournelle’s Sauron supermen. These guys are not team players, so they’re maybe meant to be the bad guys. From a gaming standpoint, they’d fill the role of the double dealing thief, Firefly’s Jayne, and Traveller’s Vargr.
  • Delphic — These are very similar to the Mentats in Dune and maybe the Focused Emergents from A Fire Upon the Deep. There’s no spice addiction, crazy eyebrows, assassination, or hyper-autism here. It’s interesting, though, to combine elevated memory and calculation abilities with corresponding shortcomings– otherwise you get some sort of Vulcan or Elf-like species that upstages everyone else. As with the other genetically altered human “clade”, the extra skills and attribute bonuses you get are at the cost of the “bonus” points that you’d otherwise spend as you please.
  • Czanik — Man’s best friend is a tree! The cultural conservatism makes them superficially similar to the Vilani, but now that I think of it, Traveller never established any particular alien as the “best bud” species for mankind the way that Alan Dean Foster did with the Thranx in the Humanx Commonwealth.
  • Hen Jaa — These octopus-dudes are as close as we’re going to get to Star Frontier’s Sathar, but maybe they’re not really evil, just inscrutably alien.
  • Kriilkna — These trilaterally symmetric aliens have three castes: priests, warriors, and workers. In a sense, this species conflates Traveller’s Droyne and Hiver into a new composite.

    Click through for more mind bending science fiction covers that will inspire you to play a Delphic character....!

One noticeable difference in these alien write-ups compared with other games is that their psychology is presented as being derived by current physiology rather than being placed in some sort of elaborate evolutionary context. I can only speculate as to the reasons for this, but clearly a book this size can’t devote entire pages to this sort of thing the way the old Traveller Alien Modules did. Still, that which is defined is limiting, so I’m glad this sort of thing was left open. After all, prehistory and origins questions are a favorite topic for epic secrets to unravel in the course of a campaign!

Here’s a few typos and layout issues I noticed:

  1. page 40: a “while” sticks outside of its margin on the left.
  2. page 41: is it a duonroto or a duonrotoj?
  3. page 52: “Terrans and other[s]? associate…”
  4. page 52: “have established themselves a[n]? important…”
  5. page 52: “apart from what [has]? gone before…”

The readalong rages on at this site every week, Tuesday through Thursday. Come back tomorrow for chapter four!

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4 responses to “Thousand Suns Readalong Chapter 3: Species

  1. Adam Jury January 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Hey Jeffro — when you’ve finished your readalong, if you drop me an email with all the typos and fiddly mistakes you saw, I’ll make sure that James and I look them over for future updates to the PDF/POD. Thanks, and thanks for the readalong! :)

  2. John E. Boyle October 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm

    While I don’t plan on using any of the non-human races from this chapter to start off in my campaign, they’ll be available on down the line if any of my players are interested. For now, they provide examples of how to design my own alien races, which will be useful when I write up the canine z’Srauff (Piper) and the reptilian Zacathans (Norton).

    Even though I won’t be using the alien races yet, I like that their nicely open-ended; it gives me more elbow room as GM.

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