Since it looks like the Neanderthals will be a major opponent in the Federation-Apocalypse setting, here’s a template for them. Please note that – thanks to their technological limitations, differing view of the world, and communications difficulties, Neanderthals really aren’t recommended as characters.
Neanderthal Man – Homo Sapien Neanderthalis –was almost purely carnivorous; the most extreme predatory homid to ever live. Adapted for tactics resembling those of modern bears (close, stab, and grapple) rather than the projectile-predator tactics typical of Homo Sapien Sapiens, they were the apex pack-hunting species throughout Europe and much of western and central Asia for nearly 130,000 years between 180,000 and 50,000 BC. Whether for good or ill, their population averaged approximately 10,000 throughout most of that period, with an average lifespan – including the numerous children who died young – of about 13 years.
Despite their success and raw physical power, the Neanderthals were extinct within 20,000 years of the arrival of Homo Sapien Sapiens in their range. There were multiple factors involved. Sapiens could obtain considerably more calories from the same range thanks to their greater use of plant foods, the rise in temperatures as the ice age drew to a close favored Sapiensmore gracile build, hunting with projectiles might be less reliable (which plant foods more than made up for), but it led to far fewer injuries, and Sapiens was (at least according to most models) better at communicating, scheming, and social activities.
At least in this setting, they had also evolved an entirely different approach to understanding the cosmos. Sapienshad focus – the ability to classify things in exact categories, examine physical cause-and-effect relationships, communicate precisely, utilize symbols to communicate indirectly, and evolve complex, multi-stage plans. Sapiens was firmly on the path to mastery of the physical world, to ever-increasing technologies, and to dominance. Neanderthalis thought holistically – seeing all things as interconnected parts of a greater whole. They could easily coordinate their efforts spontaneously, associatively remember vast amounts of material, get along with far fewer words and gestures than the verbose Sapiens (their languages tend to be simple and rather musical), and had no need of complex theologies; they understood instinctively.
They were well adapted to the Manifold – a realm of perceived, rather than absolute, relationships, of associations and magic.
In competition with Sapiens in the core, they were doomed.
Like all higher life forms, however, the Neanderthals continued in the Manifold – although waning fertility eventually stabilized their population at about ten billion souls (perhaps enough to open the Manifold if not for the fact that – by then – they had long ago lost the core and never understood its importance in the first place) and led to a serious crisis: outside of the occasional tired elder passing on to forgetfulness and a new incarnation all their future children would be phantasms. Unwilling to accept this, the Neanderthals forcibly “adopted” some of the souls of the other extinct homid species – but eventually discovered the burgeoning population of Sapiens souls in the Manifold.
The Manifold was not the Core. Once out in the Manifold, virtually all of the Neanderthals had soon developed Hexcrafting (drawing on totems, natural forces, music, and various associations rather than symbols, but effectively the same), and many of them had develop Mana and/or some of the abilities of the Mystic Artist. This time Homo Sapien Sapiens would not triumph so easily.
The War of Souls had begun
Young Neanderthal Template: (29 CP, +0 ECL)
Fast Learner (Specialized in Hexcraft, +2 CP/Level, 6 CP).
+2 Caster Levels, specialized in Hexcrafting (6 CP)
One Hexcrafting Card Slot, Corrupted/cannot grant any access to technological abilities (5 CP) (most will have constitution-based spellcasting and an 18+ constitution, giving them two bonus card slots for a total of 3).
Immunity: Miscommunication with each other (Uncommon/Minor/Trivial, 1 CP).
Enhanced Health: +2 Bonus d0 Hit Dice (Essentially + [2 x Con Mod] HP, 8 CP, required to qualify for Ursine Lifestyle).
Enhanced Endurance: +2 Con (6 CP, thanks to half-price attribute modifiers)
Ursine Lifestyle: Shapeshift, Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, Variants (Human Appearance). Specialized: Black Bear Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP). (+10′ Move, +2 Natural Armor, base 1d4 HTH damage, low-light vision, scent, Str +8, Dex +2, Con +4, +4 Racial Bonus on Swim). Design Note: This is a cheap way to get a bunch of physical enhancements. Of course, in a setting where you can turn your car into fusion-powered, reconfigurable-force-field, powered battle armor, are enhanced physical attributes really all that important?
Disadvantages: Blocked (cannot use non-spontaneous magic), Blocked (cannot operate most technological systems), poor communications with linear-thinking species (normally requires magic to help), and Illiterate (-12 CP).
Most Neanderthals will be skilled in survival, dimensional navigation, and basic spear and grappling martial arts, but this is not required.
This is a fairly high-powered race for most settings: the “Ursine Lifestyle” is a pretty cheesy way to get some impressive attribute modifiers, and the +2 Con would normally cost 12 CP instead of 6 – but its fairly typical for the Manifold setting, where most races are well above the usual average.