#Starfinder – Starfinder Month: The Tsuku

boris-moskalenko-a-03

Art by Boris Moskalenko

Tsuku: +2 Str +2 Con -2 Dex 6 HP

Densely fleshed with powerful lungs and hyper-oxygenated blood, the tsuku are a strong, powerful, stubborn people who have only newly taken to the stars. Their home world of Djaringa is over eighty per cent ocean, with the smattering of land broken up into shattered archipelagos which are frequently washed over by tsunamis from the planet’s many earthquakes. Denied a view of the stars by thick cloud and the ocean in which they spent most of their time, they concentrated on their own world, marshalling their resources and accomplishing many great technical feats suited to their environment. Discovered by scout ships they have now joined galactic society, which they readily view as part of their greater family. Fiercely loyal to their ‘pods’ they have now adapted their aquatic technology and lifestyle to new roles amongst the stars.

Size and Type

Tsuku are medium humanoids with the tsuku and aquatic (amphibious) subtype.

Amphibious

Tsuku have the Swim movement type (see the main book) and can move their full speed in water. They are mammalian and need to surface to breathe (without technology) but can hold their breath so long that – with forewarning – they do not need to breathe for any normal duration of time that would come up in a game.

Low Light Vision

Tsuku can see in dim light as if it were normal light.

Thick Skin

Tsuku gain a +2 racial bonus to Fortitude saving throws against environmental effects.

Pod Loyalty

The tsuku are fiercely and ferociously loyal to their friends – and expect the same in return. Their presence is great for morale and they draw a great deal of strength from their own bonds of friendship. Designate up to five other people (or sapients) as part of your ‘pod’. Once per day while aiding them or being aided by them you can roll twice and keep the highest result.

Playing a Tsuku

You likely…

  • Care very much about your friends and want to get to know them very well.
  • Are filled with a huge amount of curiosity about the universe around you, that may get you into trouble.
  • Abhor wastes of resources of any kind and are constantly switching off lights, recycling rubbish and making do with leftovers.
  • Sing to yourself and feel crushingly lonely when left completely alone.

Other Races Probably…

  • Never met one of you before.
  • Find your social forwardness incredibly awkward.
  • Find your voice deep and hard to understand.
  • Love the smooth feel of your skin and want to touch it.

Physical Description

The tsuku are a solid looking people, broad-shouldered, broad-hipped, barrel-chested and covered in a thick, even layer of tough, smooth, bluish skin and fat. Strong, powerful and more than a little clumsy, few tsuku ever reach the heights of six feet and such a tsuku is rare and noteworthy. Family, pod, tribe, clan and other affiliations are marked with patterns in permanent dye upon a tsuku’s skin so that each can read another like a book. Their voices are also deep and booming and instantly recognisable as a particular individual to any other tsuku. Some tsuku voices are so deep and booming that they can cause physical discomfort to other beings, resonating with their cavities and organs.

Tsuku are mammalian, but it is hard to tell the difference between the males and females if you are not up on tsuku physiology. Females tend to be around six inches shorter – on average – with a lighter skin tone and larger nipples – something that is often visible as most tsuku only wear clothes for practical reasons – like work. Some throwback male tsuku – and only male tsuku – grow tusks, a vestige of their ancestry (take this as a Feat at character creation if you want it, the tusks are considered to be natural weapons like those of the vesk).

Tsuku are new to interstellar society but are determined to make a name for themselves and are rapidly adjusting their existing technology to new roles, which can lead to some… interesting compromises.

Home World

Djaringa is off the beaten path and a difficult place to visit for most other humanoids. The frequent quakes, storms and tsunamis mean that the tsuku cities are all free-floating and most are also beneath the surface. Their first major surface city – and starport – has recently been completed, but its day to day location on the planet is anyone’s guess. The tsuku are gregarious and interested in outsiders and so have been encouraging traders and visitors but some tsuku nativists are beginning to regret it, many generations of isolation and a culture of respect and care for the environment bumps up harshly against interstellar tourism and capitalism.

Society and Alignment

Tsuku place an enormous amount of importance on their place in society. You are an individual, but you are defined by your family, your pod, your tribe, your clan, your city and your people over and above that. Tsuku are selfless, generous and, all in all, a ‘happy-go-lucky’ people without any effort. Amongst their species this is not a problem, as other than a few psychotic aberrations everyone is on the same page. It has, however, made them a people ripe for exploitation by others as they encounter less generous, less honourable people. Most tsuku are lawful good, but the law in their own society exists for the common good and is consented to by all, they rankle against authoritarian and unjust laws and regimes.

Tsuku are open and frank about sexual interest, something else that makes many other species and societies cringe. In their home society pods marry each other, with the groups intermingling freely and raising the young communally.

A pod is a friendship group of five to ten tsuku (typically) who grew up together and who know each other well. Pods typically go into the same business and the pod is also a natural military or police unit whose familiarity with each other makes them more effective and trustworthy. Pods lose members and amalgamate over time as well as shedding members who choose a life of adventure. You never, truly, however lose your first pod.

Relations

The tsuku can get on with just about anyone, but some grumpy souls find their positivity, happiness and friendliness puzzling and even offensive. Robotic lifeforms, in particular, find them hard to understand and get along with. The tsuku are inclined to give anyone and everyone a chance and are, if anything, far too forgiving.

Adventurers

The tsuku have only been part of larger, galactic civilisation for a score or so years – since first contact. Many of them have stars in their eyes and have taken to space to see everything for the first time and to bring back stories and trinkets for their pods.

Names

Tsuku names are often too deep or too high to be heard by other intelligent beings, and so they tend to translate them into something more easily said by other species. These names approximate their own names in that deeper or higher register and tend to include clicking sounds and long vowels. Some sample names include: Aroon, Cakak, Eeyou, Gunt, Iaia, Klikik, Moona, Ooeo, Quequa, Seeooia, Uwu, Woomaa, Yarooikik.

***

Tsuku ‘Oon’ Aquavacc Suit

The Oon is a repurposed deep-dive suit, used by tsuku who explore the deepest regions of their ocean planet in search of fresh resources. The suit was easily adapted to become a vacuum suit and its resemblance to antiquated diving gear of other species has been a source of some amusement.

  • Oon I: Level 2, Price 800, EAC +1, KAC +4, Max Dex Bonus +3, Slots 0, Bulk 2, Special: Rebreather (can breathe indefinitely underwater and up to two hours in other environments).
  • Oon II: Level 6, Price 5000, EAC +4, KAC +10, Max Dex Bonus +4, Slots 1, Bulk 2, Special: Rebreather
  • Oon III: Level 10, Price 17000, EAC +8, KAC +17, Max Dex Bonus +5, Slots 3, Bulk 2, Special: Rebreather
  • Oon IV: Level 14, Price 61000, EAC +12, KAC +23, Max Dex Bonus +5, Slots 4, Bulk 2, Special: Rebreather
  • Oon V: Level 18, Price 400000, EAC +16, KAC +25, Max Dex Bonus +8, Slots 5, Bulk 2, Special: Rebreather

Special Option

Hydro jets that bolt onto legs, shoulders or other parts of armour, these greatly increase the utility of aquatic armour.

  • Rikitikit Swimpak: Level 5, Price 3000, Slots 1, Armour Type (any), Bulk 1, Special: Gain water movement or, if you already have it, gain +10 ft speed while in water.

Small Arm

The Unk Welder-Gun is typical of tsuku technology having two or more roles. While this is a sidearm, it is also a quick, useful welding tool as well as being deadly in close-quarters combat.

  • Unk Welder-Gun: Level 2, Price 500, Damage 1d6 F, Range 10 ft, Critical Burn 1d6 F, Capacity 10 charges, Usage 1, Bulk L, Special: Line.

Review: Alien Isolation

maxresdefaultIntroduction

I’m a fan of the Alien series – by which I primarily mean Alien and Aliens. The rest of the films can take a running jump off a cliff so far as I’m concerned. None of them live up to the promise of those first two. Some of the Dark Horse comics on the other hand, were brilliant and if Aliens Versus Predator had been based on their comic it would have been amazing. Prometheus looked pretty, but was a conceptual nightmare, like someone had given Von Daniken the brown acid and an unlimited budget.

I love the franchise, but I’m a picky motherfucker, is basically what I’m saying.

Also, here be spoilers.

Story

You step into the shoes of Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s canonical daughter who had died by the time we get to Aliens. Amanda has grown up without her mother and without knowing what happened to her. When the Nostromo’s black box is discovered and word gets back to Weyland-Yutani, she goes out on the company vessel the Torrens alongside an oligatory synthetic (Samuels) and a company woman (Taylor) to the remote station Sevastopol, owned by the lesser rival corporation, Seegson.

Upon arrival it becomes obvious that things have gone horribly wrong with Sevastopol. Nobody appears to be in charge, there’s no communications and to get to the station involves a spacewalk that goes wrong and leaves the trio scattered across the station.

As Ellen you have to survive the panicked populace, the rogue synthetics (lower tech than WT ones), the smashed up and breaking down station and… the alien.

Though things continue to get worse and it turns out it’s not just the one alien, but a whole nest (though the canonicity of aliens becoming queens or reproducing without queens – at least to start with – seems to be in question).

Eventually you escape – though that’s a questionable interpretation of events – and space is left for a sequel, though I think the story works better as a stand-alone.

Presentation

In many respects the presentation of this game is perfect. It’s a retro-future very much in the style of the films Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986). This is played out in effects like green screen monitors, flickering strip lights, bulky monitors and computers that look more like Apple IIs or terminals. The save icon is even a video cassette.

This might be confusing and strange to younger gamers, but it definitely puts you in the world of the two best films and the whole design approach echoes aspects of those films (primarily Alien) and maintains the style throughout the game. The only drawback to this consistency is that many of the levels blur together through similarity and it can be hard to get a sense of being on a ship rather than the station.

Alien infested sections definitely have their own feel, as does the space jockey wreck, the planet surface and the exterior of the station, so it’s definitely not for lack of talent that other aspects feel a bit samey.

The sound score, similarly, echoes the films very faithfully and cranks up the tension of Goldsmith’s original score (Alien) to create terror by association. The only problem with it is that sometimes it cranks up the tension for no readily discernible reason, the musical equivalent of a cheap jump-scare.

The one area that really, really, really lets the game down in its presentation (beyond the minor gripes that there’s a lot of walking around doing nothing, which builds tension but gets old) is the alien.

You would really, really hope that the alien would be well done. Graphically it looks fine, but the motion capture animation for the alien is just too human looking. When it’s stalking you, you can’t help but be disappointed as it wanders around like a child who’s made stilts out of a couple of treacle tins. It only really becomes scary when it’s in pursuit of you and since it’s so key to the story and much of the play, it really lets the game down.

This is an area in which games can be better than films and better than the source material. Having the alien clamber on walls and ceiling as well as the floor, having it move in a less human manner would have massively improved the game. As it stands the blank-faced androids are scarier than the alien, and that’s just wrong.

Gameplay

The game plays like an FPS, though it’s really more of a stealth/survival game. Frustratingly you can’t jump, though you can crouch, crawl and hide under tables and inside ducts. The lack of a jump/scramble – save in particular spots – is hugely frustrating, especially whe being unable to hop up a couple of feet out of a gutter can be a matter of life and death.

Combat isn’t a huge focus, though you will find yourself struggling with other survivors and androids – but not aliens, which you can’t kill or hurt. You’re not a warrior, so you’ll find yourself lining up shots carefully and still missing. You’ll also find yourself bashing in people’s brains with a wrench a lot.

Androids are tough and if you get into a wrench-fight with one they’ll often catch your swing and end up throwing you back or into a wall. This does definitely bring home the strength and toughness of even the inferior Seegson androids, but it’s really, really repetitive and could have done with a bit more variety, or being a little less flawless at catching and deflecting your attacks.

Score
Style: 4.5 (only really let down by the alien).
Substance: 3 (A lot of plot information is hidden away on terminals, a lot of time in the game is lost crawling down corridors, stretching play out to snapping point).
Overall: 3.75

Opinion

The way people had been going on about this game I’d expected it to cause spontaneous orgasms and to spew kittens out of the screen. Even so, I wasn’t that sure that I’d like it and only got it because it was at reduced cost in the PS4 store. If I’d paid full price, I think I’d have been a little disappointed.

It’s not that this isn’t a good game, it just doesn’t really live up to the hype around it. I think, perhaps, given that Colonial Marines was such a disappointment to everyone, people were hugely pleased to get this game and for it not to suck.

Machinations: Space Pirates! A Monster Sketch

Captain Bringdown and the Lustrous-Less Crew of the Merry Widow

Captain Bringdown
3 Hit Dice (24 hit points – Boss)
Attack: +3 (Cutlass D6, Blaster Pistol D6)
Defence Class: 15
Armour: 1d6
Saves: 6

Captain Bringdown is the captain of The Merry Widow. A pirate starship crewed by robots (he doesn’t trust people – they want to share the loot). His key weapon is an ExoTech device that can channel negative energy through the main gun. This causes a lingering listlessness and depression (Spirit save to resist) that the crew take advantage of in their attacks and raids.

Special: Captain Bringdown can sacrifice one of his robot crew to take a hit for him, once per turn.

PIR-8
1 Hit Dice (8 hit points – Boss)
Attack: +2 (Cutlass D6, Blaster Pistol D6)
Defence Class: 12
Armour: 1d8
Saves: 6

Captain Bringdown’s second in command, PIR-8 is programmed to be the best possible first mate. Obsequious, loyal, butt-kissing and willing to die for his captain. He is all these things but only because he is programmed to be.

Special: PIR-8 can bolt other members of the crew to his chassis to heal hit points of damage or to provide a temporary boost to his hit points.

The Crew
1 Hit Dice (1 hit point – Goon)
Attack: +1 (Robo-Fist D4, Blaster Carbine D8)
Defence Class 12
Armour: D6
Saves: 6

A motley assortment of cobbled-together robots that tend to jerk, spasm and get suck on the letter ‘R’.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: Fido

Trained for generations by a strict but unknown alien race, the Fidos were bred for retrieval. Slinking out on their own they cannot help but fetch the debris of outer space for whomever happens by, knowing they will be rewarded in some way.

Traveller

Fast Metabolism
Feral 1d6 Education
Natural Weapon Claws/Bite 1 damage, Melee (natural weapons) 0.
Notable Statistic, Dexterity +2
Uplifted
Weak Statistic, Intelligence -2
Natural Talent for technology, +1 bonus to all tech/engineering skills.
Pack Rank replaces social standing.

Homeworld: Ihr (Home): C 876830-9 Ga

Starport C, 12.8k km, standard, tainted atmosphere, 60% water, hundreds of millions population, self-perpetuating oligarchy, law level 0, tech level 9.

Starblazer

Fido have the following traits:

  • Enhanced Hearing [Stunt]
  • Enhanced Smell [Stunt]
  • Fast [Stunt]
  • Jump [Stunt]
  • Jaws [Stunt]
  • Supermind [Engineering]
  1. Major weakness to Sonic Attacks
  2. Weakness to Psionic/Social control
  3. No fine manipulation

General

The Fido are an uplifted domestic species, somewhat similar to a Terran dog, though much bigger and more lizard/parrot like. They are now an independent species in their own right, though they still have a strong undercurrent of loyalty and submission built into their nature. The Fido are fascinated with technology, earning them the nickname ‘Junkyard dogs’. They collect, dismantle and reconstruct alien and ancient technology without truly understanding it and all their worlds and colonies are massive interstellar junkyards. They have no standardised equipment, no standardised ships, they turn whatever is to hand to whatever they want.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: Cudgel

The customary greeting amongst Cudgels is a hearty handshake and a solid blow to the head. This long-held tradition – often fatal – is frequently misunderstood by other races, much to the amusement of the Cudgels. Now, having flattened all their closest friends, the gregarious Cudgel look skyward, leaving the debris of their broken planet behind. With fists raised in friendship, they seek out new beings to meet, greet and smash and will not stop until the cosmos itself is shattered.

Traveller

Armoured: 1
Large: Strength 3d6, Endurance 4d6
Natural Weapon: Horns 1 damage, Melee Natural Weapons 0.
Notable Strength & Endurance +2
Weak Education and Intelligence -2
Brutality replaces social standing

Homeworld: Chod: B0119A0-9 N Hi Ic In Na R

Starport B, Asteroids (multiple), trace atmosphere, hydrographics 10%, population in the billions, charismatic dictatorship, law level 0, tech level 9.

Starblazer

Cudgel have the following traits:

  • Hard Hide [Stunt]
  • Protection [Stunt]
  • Horns [Stunt] (See claws)
  • Oversized [Stunt]
  1. Weak Vs Psi Attacks
  2. Fractious (-2 to Rapport and Empathy rolls).
  3. No Fine Manipulation

General

The Cudgel, known as Huhn (Hoon) amongst themselves, are massive, brutish, simplistic souls who are prone to a sort of amiable rough housing that many find fatal. Cudgel believing in testing everything to destruction and only that which survives their attentions is worthy. Even their home planet wasn’t worthy, burst asunder into an asteroid field by their own careless weapon testing. Now they quest out into the void seeking new worlds which are worthy enough to be a home to their species.

If you survive the greeting, the Cudgel can be your staunchest allies and greatest friends.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: The Citadel

Brilliant architects who obsessively build vast fortresses as they travel through the cosmos, the Citadels are often welcomed with open arms by other races, who are delighted to benefit from the universe’s best defences. Of course, what the Citadels don’t tell them is that these fortifications only work when the Citadels want them to.

Traveller

Natural Weapon: Venomous bite – Melee Natural (0), damage 1, paralytic poison (as tranq gas).

Homeworld: TekTuk: AA74C55-B N Ga Hi In

Starport A, 16k km, dense tainted atmosphere, 40% water, population in the trillions, feudal technocracy, law level 5, tech level 11.

Starblazer

Citadel’s have the following traits:

  • Fur (+1 bonus to resist extremes of cold) [Stunt]
  • Toxic [Skill]
  • Toxic Bite [Stunt]
  • Enhanced Vision (Low light and UV) [Stunt]
  • Supermind (engineering) [Stunt]
  1. Weakness – Heat
  2. Repulsive (-2 Rapport/Empathy with mammalian species)

General

Citadels resemble a cross between apes and spiders with large, bulging, compound eyes, spider-like fangs and bodies covered in bristly fur. This somewhat creeps out mammalian species but most get over it as Citadel’s are brilliant engineers and fortifiers. Their own world is almost entirely one giant warren of cities and greenhouses and they tend to build sprawling, strong but lightweight structures that resemble exaggerated cones, ‘webbed’ into position with bucky cables.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: Calculators

Defenceless on a jungle world, The Order of Calculators grew adroit at ensnaring their powerful but bungling competitors. Now adept at turning strength back against itself, they study the prospect of galactic empire, trusting that other, grosser beings will not also grow calculating.

Traveller

Notable Intelligence +2
Notable Education +2
Small: Strength 1d6, Endurance 1d6, Dexterity 3d6
Social Standing is replaced by Merit

Homeworld: Trrt – A985886-B N Ga Ri

Starport A, 14.4k km, dense atmosphere, 50% water (all as lakes, rivers, clouds and rain), population in the hundreds of millions, government is a meritocratic bureaucracy, law level 6, Tech level 11

Starblazer

Calculators have the following traits:

  • Supermind [Stunt]
  1. Ponderous

General

Calculators are the leaders of their people, an elite at the forefront of a society of planners and thinkers. In their robes and computerised armour of office they have access to massive amounts of historical and sensor data with which they can make their plans.

Calculators have a language of only two syllables, to non-calculators it sounds like a trilling or buzzing sound but is in fact a binary language made by the rapid flickering of organs in the throat, not unlike the purr of a cat. It is surprisingly rapid and almost compensates for the Calculator’s slow process of thought and planning.

Cosmic Encounter Aliens: Barbarians

A savage race from a harsh solar system, the Barbarians roared out into the cosmos as soon as they discovered space flight. They have crushed many civilisations before them, careless tossing aside priceless cultural treasures in their endless quest for glory, battle and the lamentations of their enemies.

 

 

Traveller

Fast Metabolism: Barbarians burn twice as bright, but half as long, part of what accounts for their racial ambition and lack of patience.

Feral: Barbarians have no respect for technology or culture that they can’t use to forward their own battling agenda.

Large: Barbarians are hulking brutes and have a Strength and Endurance of 3d6.

Notable Endurance: Barbarians have a non-symmetrical body plan and the layout of their organs, the size of their limbs, the thickness of muscle and bone varies greatly from Barbarian to Barbarian giving them +2 to their Endurance.

Homeworld: Hurd: B4419A0-9 N Hi IC In Po A

Good Starport, 6.4k km, thin & tainted atmosphere, dry world, billions population, charismatic dictatorship, no law, Tech level 9, Amber Zone.

Starblazer

Barbarians have the following traits:

  • Fast [Stunt]
  • Extreme Conditions [Stunt]
  • Hard Hide [Stunt]
  • Protection [Stunt]
  • Oversized [Stunt]
  1. Scary.
  2. Weak to social attacks.
  3. Weak to psychic attacks.

General

Barbarians, Hurdankla in their own tongue (strength in blood is a literal translation), are a scourge upon the cosmos. Coming from a small world with little in the way of resources they used to be divided into warring tribes. Constant warfare drove their technology on to the point of interstellar travel but since then their development has stalled, replaced by rapacious destruction and looting.

Barbarian ships are fast and powerful, but not especially well armoured. They do not conquer, they destroy or raid with little in between. Their combat doctrine is to hit hard and fast, cause as much damage as possible and to make off with as much in the way of resources, slaves and loot as possible – though they only care for raw, physical value.

If outnumbered or outclassed they will retreat and gather in larger numbers. If cornered, they will fight.