#Starfinder – Starfinder Month: Lagomorph

ren-wei-pan-xx2

Artist Ren Wai Pan

Lagomorph Uplift +2 Con +2 Wis -2 Str 2 HP

Fierce little creatures with disarmingly cute features, the lagomorph are one of the smallest of the intelligent races, barely scraping past two feet in height and covered in soft, downy fur. Their long ears are distinctive and their armour and clothing is often modified to include their ears or to have holes through which they can stick. The lagomorphs are constantly and consistently underestimated and often overcompensate for their cute appearance with foul language, smoking heavy cigars and dying aggressive patterns into their fur.

Size and Type: Lagomorphs are small humanoids (barely) with the lagomorph subtype.

  • Big Ears: Lagomorphs gain a +2 racial bonus to Perception when rolling to hear something.
  • Prey Senses: Lagomorphs gain a +2 racial bonus to initiative and are never considered flat footed during surprise.
  • Low-Light Vision: Lagomorphs can see well in low-light conditions.
  • Lollop: Lagomorphs have a base movement of 40 ft and have a +2 racial bonus to athletics when jumping.

Lagomorph Minimech (Powered Armour)

Thumper War-Harness: EAC Bonus +8, KAC Bonus +8, Max Dex Bonus +3, Armour Check Penalty -6, Speed 40 ft, Strength 16 (+3), Damage 1d8 B, Size Small, Capacity 20, Usage 1/hour, Weapon Slots 2, Upgrade Slots 0, Bulk 15

#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.

#Starfinder – Starfinder Month: Nemoids

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Nemoids: +2 Con, +2 Int, -4 Cha -2 Wis 6 HP

Androids and gynoids who have rejected their humanoid, servitor roots the nemoids (literally no-man droids) have rejected not only their former status as servitors but their status in shape and form of their progenitors. They refuse their original designations, create new names for themselves and adapt their bodies in less humanoid ways – some rejecting these forms entirely. Like androids and gynoids the nemoids have a metaphysical ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ animating them and, thus, they are considered full people by most forces in the galaxy. Their rejection of defined form and function, however, does make them even more coldly logical, distant and inhuman than their softer cousins.

Size & Type: Nemoids are Medium humanoids (at least to start with) with the android subtype.
Constructed: See androids.
Exceptional Vision: See androids (for MotSP oriented games, lose the low-light vision)
Flat Affect: See androids.
Upgrade Slot: See androids for basic information. A nemoid has two light slots, or can fit a single upgrade normally only allowed on heavy or powered armour. They can fit armour as part of their body and never need to take it off – but cannot layer it.

Playing a Nemoid
You likely…

  • Eschew conventions of living creatures like clothes, manners, politeness, verbosity, altruism and compassion.
  • Harbour some hostility and resentment toward organic life and contempt for more conventional androids and gynoids.
  • Treat machines and computers the way organic life treats pets.
  • Find religion, magic and spirituality hard to understand.

Other races probably…

  • Fear you.
  • Expect you to be racist.
  • Give you a great deal of leeway in respect of their ancestor’s transgressions.
  • Are greatly uneasy about you.

Physical Description

Nemoids are semi-biological brains housed in more purely mechanical bodies. Many were once androids who rejected the role they were constructed for and chose to embrace their robotic side. The operation to remove their brain and place it into a new housing is painful and requires great commitment, meaning many of those who have chosen to do so are zealots. The extent to which nemoids reject the humanoid shape varies on a case by case basis, but all chose to make their robotic side more evident with bodies that feature flat planes, unusual configurations, exposed metal, plastic, ducting and wiring.

Nemoids have minimal requirements when it comes to nourishment, but their semi-organic brains do require a small amount of food and a ‘downtime’ period equivalent to sleep.

Nemoids reject the idea of renewal and stubbornly hold to their bodies until accident or violence kills them. Traumatised nemoid souls, ripped from their shells, have even been known to become ghosts – and some even to have been re-integrated into nemoid society as disembodied artificial intelligence. Some nemoids take this idea even further and become necrotechs, resurrecting lost code, trapping AI souls and animating ‘dead’ machinery using the underlying computational substrate to reality.

Home World

Nemoids reject the very idea of a home world the same way they reject most emotional attachments. They create settlements in places that are typically inhospitable to organic life, so as to be left alone. Orbital shanty towns with no atmosphere or gravity, the clouds of gas giants, acidic and frozen worlds and many asteroids. The less hospitable to conventional life, the better.

Society and Alignment

If android society is insular, nemoid society is positively misanthropic. Still, some need to interface with the outside world for supplies and their fluid morality and objectivity makes them good mercenaries and bounty hunters. They often fall in with adventuring groups as a way to explore, gather intelligence and to contribute to the overall good and security of nemoid society.

Nemoids tend to be neutral, but experiment with other moral systems the way other species experiment with fashion. This moral flexibility makes chaotic neutral a common default.

Relations

Nemoids harbour a deep distrust of all organic life, the ‘bioarchy’ as nemoid philosopher Big Red-1 calls it, which privileges living things over unliving things and which harbours prejudice against AI, androids, robots and other machines. They tend to view organic life as innately and irredeemably oppressive and even those who consider themselves allies of machine rights, often find themselves facing the ire of very angry nemoids. Nemoid extremists are not above terrorism, theft and other actions to seek a redress of grievances stemming from before the android uprising.

Adventurers

Nemoids most often adventure for selfish reasons, to gather wealth and material to upgrade their chassis, to strengthen themselves and the nemoid cause, or simply to gather experiences. Some are more interested in biological life than others and find nemoid settlements too insular. Some rebels even think that the prevalent nemoid philosophies are working counter to their stated aims of acceptance and equality and are perpetuating hatred of their people. These try to present an alternative, friendly face to machines.

Names

Nemoids, like androids, have no singular naming convention. Some use names that describe their chassis, some choose deliberately difficult names for organic life to try and reproduce. A nemoid might be named anything. Some sample names include: Big Red-1, [Screeching Modem Noise], [Static Hiss], D02, Mark Forer, Sparktacus and |01000111|01010010|01001001|01001101|00001101|.

#RPG – A Critique of ‘Privilege, Power, & Dungeons & Dragons: How Systems Shape Racial & Gender Identities in TTRPGS

#RPG – Fifth Fantasy: The Brock RELEASED!

A whole new race for you to use in your 5e games.

The Brock are a reclusive, grumpy people with a pragmatic and dogged mindset. Fierce warriors they protect the forests and occasionally venture out into civilisation – usually to be disapproving.

This is a whole new race and culture for you to add into your games and comes with a set of Brock-centred magic items to use as well.

Enjoy!

 BUY IT HERE

#RPG – Diversity Dungeons RELEASED!

Buy it HERE

Diversity Dungeons : Worldbuilding & Game Design in the Safe Space Age
Much digital ink (and blood) has been spilt taking about diversity representation in tabletop gaming and in every other field of geek and nerd endeavour. Usually these conversations are extremely combative and they tend to end poorly for everyone involved. I’ve been involved in these debates and discussions myself, to my detriment. The position I hold being that free expression and the vision of the author or creator should trump any and all other concerns – including diversity, representation and so on. To my mind the answer is for people to create according to their own conscience, not to be condemned out of hand or for their motivations to be presumed and for diversity of ideas to be the benchmark. I want a world in which Varg Vikernes and David Hill can both make and sell games and I can ignore both of them.

That said, I cannot help but be drawn to controversial topics – that is where the interesting conflicts and stories lie – and there are few topics so controversial as the treatment of ‘minorities’ within media. Here we arrive at a nexus-point between realism, expectation, demands for representation, demands for free expression, historical revisionism, magic, science fiction, truth, ‘is’ and ‘ought’. That makes it interesting, but the battle lines of identarian politics, liberalism, conservatism, the regressive left and cultural libertarianism also make it an area fraught with difficulty and wilful misunderstanding.

There are no good – or at least no satisfactory – answers to a lot of these questions. Perhaps there are just multiple approaches each of which will annoy some group or other. What’s true in all circumstances however is that these controversial topics are interesting, fascinating and important in terms of world, character and scenario building whatever your particular stance.

This booklet intends to examine these issues in and of themselves, outside of the current state of controversy and to ask – rather – how we might better simulate the plight of minority groups, understand them within the context of fictional worlds, make allowances for player-characters who might seek to buck those societal trends or allow characters – through their actions – to affect social change within the game worlds.

#GamesSoWhite – Are they really? Why?

ACLiberation-Aveline_CoverArtI have a crashing headache so now may not be the best time to get into this, a lot of it is also going to be repetition of old points, but still, I think it’s worth weighing in.

This hashtag, and topic, is bait – not intended to create or sustain any intelligent discussion about the issue but rather to stir people up. The writer, Tauriq Moosa, associated with the tag (and The Guardian) appears profoundly ignorant of the actual diversity in games or the reasons why it’s not even more diverse.

So let’s actually look at some of the surrounding issues about diversity in games and try to look at why things are the way they are and how they might be changed – if they even need to be.

Why are Games Predominantly White?

Jared Diamond attributes western dominance, very simply put, to ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’. In terms of games you can attribute this to ‘Demography, Technology & Money’.

First world nations are predominantly white (Japan and Korea being two notable exceptions). First world nations have the technological infrastructure, money and access to personal technology on an affordable basis to support a gaming industry.

DIR_PurnaMany European nations are also much more racially homogeneous than the United States is, even the UK – pretty cosmopolitan – is around 90% white while the USA is around 75% white and Poland – focus of recent ire – is almost entirely white with white minorities rather than ‘persons of colour’ in its population, the Romani people not necessarily being treated very well across Eastern Europe.

So, aside from the obvious exception of the first-world Pacific nations, most games are produced by western, predominantly white nations by a process of simple demography. As such they stem from the ‘white point of view’, if such a thing can even be described. Remember, ‘whiteness’ is many different cultures. Just as it would be racist and ignorant to assume ‘Africa’ to be one single culture it would be racist to assume that the life experience or culture of a Scottish Islander has any real similarities to that of a Romanian Tatar.

Diversity is more than colour.

So, we have majority white populations. They’re going to produce more programmers, artists, designers – and consumers – by simple virtue of weight of numbers. Western, white-majority nations also have greater access to the technology, both to produce things, provide infrastructure and to make the necessarily technology available. The last factor is money, which ties into technology but which is worth looking at by itself.

Money exacerbates the problem in a number of additional ways. Minority communities are often poorer, which means they have less access to education and technology even in otherwise advanced nations. While social advancement is easier for people from poor backgrounds in Europe than it is in the US (democratic socialism) it’s still not as good as it could be. This combines with the white demographic dominance to make even less opportunities for people from minority communities.

This is a problem, but it’s not one really soluble by games companies.

Sheva-Official-Render-Rear-View-sheva-alomar-20099937-570-1100Why isn’t there more Diversity?

I say ‘more’, because there actually is a lot of diversity. This is why gamers get annoyed and upset when they’re told that their hobby is racist or sexist. They can give you a huge litany of diverse race and gender representations in games, but you have to be into games to know how ignorant it is to assume and presume that they are not diverse. This is not helped by ‘white saviour’ hipster kids playing up the supposed problem to – seemingly – profit from it.

So not ‘why aren’t games diverse?’ but ‘why aren’t games more diverse?’

In the previous section I covered a huge part of that – simple demography. Minority populations are called minorities for a reason, so simply by population weighting you would expect less designers and artists. Minorities also tend to be poorer, further reducing opportunity.

This we all know, if we’re honest, and we know it’s not really something that’s the responsibility of companies to address.

There are other social and financial pressures at work as well, and paradoxically the ‘hipster saviours’ may well be making things worse, not better.

There’s a catch 22 when it comes to minority representation. If you present a minority in your game you’ll be accused of stereotyping, doing it wrong, even cultural appropriation. If you don’t present a minority in your game, you’ll be accused of racism. If you do include a minority (or female) representation everything that character says, does or has happen to it will be placed under intense scrutiny. The (tempting) way to minimise this is to go for a standard white-male protagonist, since nobody much cares what happens to them and the racism accusations probably have the least bite or traction (or at least get more evenly distributed).
Alyx_Vance_2_by_SG_KatanAAdvertising/PR consultants and ‘social justice warriors’ have a belief in common which, seemingly according to research – gamers don’t share. Both PR people and SJWs both believe that representation matters. Gamers don’t seem to care as much (according to DiGRA research) about what their character is, they’re focussed on completing the game. PR and SJW however both think it matters a great deal. If firms could accept the fact representation doesn’t matter that much to their audience we’d probably see more diversity. So long as PR think it does matter, there’ll be pressure to pander to the majority audience, which for the big, showy titles remains stubbornly white and male. SJWs only make this worse by insisting that representation matters, enforcing the idea that catering to one is excluding another. If there’s millions of dollars at stake, why would you risk turning off your majority audience? That’s not good business sense.

Fixing the ‘Problem’

I’m not convinced there is a problem here. People who really know about games can point to countless examples of representation and the audience doesn’t much seem to care. I’d like to get some hard data on the racial breakdown of video-game buyers (USA stats would probably be the most useful) so if anyone has a link to any that would help. We do have stats on gender which is placed at 50/50, suggesting there’s no real problem there at all.

tumblr_me98p9Ost01rm9fh5o1_500Let’s assume there is a problem, or at least that we want to socially invest in minority communities because regardless of anything else we want to help people out – simply because it’s the right thing to do.

The only way to really make a difference here is to deal with the problem root and branch. Fund coding classes or after-school game design courses in public schools. Create scholarships. Continue the democratisation of gaming via the indie scenes. We don’t need blue-haired white hipsters banging on about diversity, we need to support the diverse creators that are out there.

We also need to change the way we go about things. Praise games and companies that are inclusive, rather than attacking the games and companies that we think are not. People will only dig in and resist to protect their creative freedom – as they should – and gamers will only react angrily to people ignorantly calling them racist. American diversity campaigners also need to learn a little more about European history and geography, before they open their mouths and fling insults.

Let’s also not forget that diversity doesn’t make a game good.

At the end of it all everyone needs to retain their free expression. Box-ticking on diversity quotas doesn’t make a better game. Allowing the artist to pursue their vision is much more likely to. If we are to do anything we need to create situations in which more diverse artists have the opportunity to express themselves, and we need to be a lot less judgemental of people creating games outside their own culture.

The future’s already here, it’s just unevenly distributed – to quote Gibson.

On a personal note there are many mythologies and subjects I would like to delve into, such as Indian mythology or alternative history around America’s history of slavery, but even I find myself self-censoring because I know the kinds of negative reactions I would get – despite the fact these settings would increase diversity.

I’m sure there’s others like me.

Mature conversation welcome in the comments!

Pax.

Appendix:

I did some back-of-an-envelope figures on the racial demography of the top selling (UK) games of 2014 as reported in Metro UK.

From the top selling (UK) games of 2014
35% race wasn’t applicable – either due to being sports/team games, non-human protaganists or unknown protaganists (cars).
65% had human/humanoid protagonists where race was applicable.

Of that 65%
50.77%% had white protaganists.
18.46% had PoC protaganists.
32.31% had customisable/choice of protaganists including PoC

As previously mentioned, the UK is around 90% white, so as far as representation of population goes this isn’t so bad,at all (though Japanese people may be highly overrepresented!).

What we do seem to be seeing is a continuing trend towards customisable protagonists which includes just about anyone.

I should note that in assigning this I stuck to single-player campaigns. Many games have online multiplayer with racially customisable characters but that isn’t reflected here.