NeoDogs and Neodolphins

   Since the topic has come up in the Federation-Apocalypse campaign, here’s a detailed description of the history of, and the racial modifiers for, NeoDog and NeoDolphin characters. As usual, these are set up using the point-buy rules for Eclipse The Codex Persona Classless d20 (available in print HERE or in a shareware version HERE). This doesn’t cover too much of the NeoDolphin culture, since that isn’t especially well known at the moment.

   The visionary scientific organization that would later become known as the “Malenfant” (or “Strange Child”) Foundation – driven by the general disappointment of nearly two centuries of interstellar exploration without the discovery of sapient life other than the Tahl (a species of alien fish with a primitive oral culture and no real manipulative organs) – began organized work on the genetic designs for various uplifted “neo-“animal species in 2297, and had limited tests of particular genetic complexes underway by the very early 2300’s. Unfortunately, they were denied permission to proceed further, thanks to both environmental laws and restrictions on the genetic engineering of sapient creatures. Unwilling to accept this, the foundation set up secret, private, facilities in the asteroid belt and produced the first full batch of 100 prototype Neodogs in 2314.

   Similar batches of Neodolphins, Newsquids, and Neochimpanzees were in existence by 2317, at which time the existence of the uplift project, along with plans for more than a dozen other neo-species (including a fair selection of dangerous land-dwelling species), was discovered by the Federation at large. The uplift project was shut down – but the foundations genetic engineers had been careful to insert genetic obedience-programming oriented towards humans into the various neo-species, rendering them blatantly harmless. Faced with a fiat accompli, and unwilling to put to death hundreds of helpless sapient creatures, the debates continued across the federation until the public reached a consensus: work on refining the existing neospecies was permitted to resume in 2328. The final genetic enhancements were completed in 2376 (NeoDogs), 2378 (NeoChimps), 2379 (NeoDolphins), and 2380 (NeoSquids).

   Since it had been decided that most of the work involved had been acceptable, the scientists involved were released from mandatory counseling, rebuked for breaking the rules, and informed that – from now on – their work would be officially monitored. They were also bombarded with requests from small children that they make their hamster/turtle/canary/etcetera talk, but that was fairly easily dealt with by filtering software. The various neospecies remained officially transferable chattels, requiring a human guardian/master, but enjoyed a modest selection of civil rights otherwise – requiring that they be adequately cared for in a variety of ways and prohibiting their mistreatment. Notably, thanks to concerns over the stability of their genetic modifications, they were not given reproductive rights – although a number of breeding pairs of neodolphins were released into the Atlantic ocean as early as 2428.

   Limited neurosurgical deprogramming experiments began in 2442, after a couple of stable generations#. Unfortunately, they were less than successful in neosquids and neochimps; both proved erratic and unable to adapt to human civilization when operating unrestricted. Those two species remain supervised laboratory curiosities to this day*. Neodolphins and neodogs were more successful, and limited genetic deprogramming was permitted after 2482. Greater civil rights, including reproductive rights and the usual luxury-credit allowance, were extended to the (modest) deprogrammed population in 2512.

   As of 2572, there are some 6.2 million neodogs – almost all of them which have ever been born – scattered amongst the human population. The vast majority – all except about 12,000 of them – are still on earth and still genetically obedience-programmed (and hence chattel). A fairly high percentage are relatively young. There was a brief craze for NeoDog companions for youngsters during the early days of the Opening, since they could evidently accompany children (and hopefully “look after them”) if they vanished – but there were few substantial results: while not a few Gatekeepers and Openers still have NeoDog companions/pets, their young masters simply dragged them along into the Manifold where the NeoDogs were helpless to do much about whatever mischief their owners got into. Traditionalists rapidly returned to classical breeds and modernists continued to employ low-maintenance and high-utility computer remotes or “Imps” as pets instead, leaving many of the obedience-programmed Neodogs more or less forgotten, free to experiment with their own oral-tale and pack-oriented culture. Perhaps unfortunately, many of them have been seduced by the easy virtual amusements and basic comforts of Core, and simply spend their time amusing themselves and waiting for some human to come and adopt them.

   Some of the free Neodogs and some idealistic humans are quietly running a project to deprogram and educate pet-class Neodogs, but the process is expensive and interest limited, hence progress has been slow.

   Neodolphins are a great deal more populous, despite a far larger number of casualties. Released into the earth’s oceans, and provided with limited computer support, they have currently displaced most of the natural species of dolphins and porpoises, as well as most of the sharks in competitive size ranges. Their estimated population stands at 118 million, with perhaps one-third that many deceased and active in the Manifold. No complete genetic survey has been possible, but medical assistance records (parasite removal 97%, all other categories 3%) indicate that at least 98% of the population – down from 99% 30 years ago – still carries genetic obedience imprinting. While NeoDolphins do obligingly play with swimmers, divert people in small boats from dangerous waters, and provide other minor services (such as swimmer rescue – if, in these days of smartclothes life-support and computer monitoring, a swimmer should ever need it) they seem to have neatly subverted the designers intent by simply only learning their own variant language – composed of a mixture of adapted human words, classical cetacean sounds, invented words, and sonar pulses, spoken in cadences and frequencies that humans can only hear bits of and cannot speak at all. Simple lack of contact, of course, weakens such programming even further.

   Humans can still call on the services of the obedience-programmed NeoDolphins, but will generally need to be either skillful telepaths, or to haul along a translation system, if they wish to do so. This is rarely done: for the most part, computer and force field systems perform almost any task better than a dolphin with no manipulative limbs. A few NeoDolphins have been included on colonizing expeditions to worlds with extensive oceans, but such groups are still dependent on extensive support everywhere except the very oldest worlds; supporting a hunting lifestyle requires a fully-established earth-type oceanic ecology. A fair number may have begun to colonize the manifold however: it is not uncommon for them to accompany sailing vessels that Gatekeepers and Openers are taking out of core.

   At this point relatively little is known of the culture the Neodolphins are developing: it appears to be highly oral (of course), and likely to be stressing the development of psychic and magical skills. It also seems to be somewhat more ruthless and darwinistic than current human cultures, possibly because there are no places of safety for them in the sea.

   *Current research on neosquids suggests that the difficulty lies in the basic neural architecture; without governing inhibitions and forced external obligations, the neosquid brain tends to lock itself in instinct-satisfaction dreamstates. Correcting this would require a complete redesign, and – since the discovery of actual aliens and the Manifold – the drive to do so simply isn’t there any longer. The difficulty with Neochimps has never been satisfactorily analyzed since it seems to lie in Manifold-based – and essentially untraceable – soul-feedback. Uninhibited Neochimps tend to become increasingly erratic and violent over time. Most speculation revolves around having two such closely related sapient species attempting to co-exist in close proximity in core, especially with one so heavily outnumbering the other. A few scholars have suggested a relationship to the extinction of the various other homid lines in prehistory, but – at least for now – any such relationship is purely speculative.

   #With their lifespans extended to near-human (multicentury) levels and the potential to produce offspring regularly for several centuries, it’s probably a good thing that the designers of the neospecies implemented an extended maturity curve (sexual maturity at about 15 years but essentially infertile until full physical maturity at approximately 20-25, gestation of ten months in NeoDogs, eighteen in Neodolphins), designed the females to be infertile for a minimum of 4-5 years after each pregnancy, limited them to one, or (rarely) two offspring at a time, and ensured that they were not fertile with their base species. All the neo-species also show the usual neotonous characteristics – extended periods of dependency, as well as learning time, curiosity, and playfulness extending into adulthood. Both NeoDolphins and NeoDogs are sexually active year-round, a feature added to Neodogs – after some debate – simply to prevent a comprehension gap between them and humans.

 

NeoDog Racial Template (+0 ECL / 31 CP).

  • +2 Str, +4 Dex, +4 Con (Normally 60 CP, reduced to 30 CP by world laws).
  • +1 Natural Armor (Defender. Specialized: Does not increase with level, 3 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Scent (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP. Note that the geneticists upgraded their basic sensitivity to color and detail to human standards)
  • Adept (6 CP): Half cost on buying the Jump, Listen, Spot, and Survival skills.
  • +2 to Jump (1 CP).
  • Martial Arts/1d4 Innate Weapons, always considered armed (3 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
  • Grant of Aid/Specialized (requires several hours): May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 3 CP), with the Regenerative option/Corrupted (requires lots of food and rest, 2 CP), allowing them to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs.

   That would be 62 CP, but the entire template can be considered specialized, reducing the net cost to 31 CP – the limit for a +0 ECL template. The factors here include the simple fact that NeoDogs have four legs (adding 10′ to their ground movement), but no arms or hands – which pretty much eliminates the use of most tools, weapons, and shields, keeps them from donning or removing armor or life support systems, blocks the use of effects requiring gestures, makes it easy for them to be tied up or trapped, and so on. They also have strong instincts (the game master may call for will checks where relevant – such as for any attempt to violate pack loyalty), limited legal rights in core (and most other areas), and may be subject to obedience programming – forcing them to consider one or more humans as their masters. Fortunately for them, along with bringing their intelligence up to baseline human levels, the genetic engineers also inserted genes for longevity and enhanced healing abilities.

 

Neodolphin Racial Template (+0 ECL / 31 CP)

  • Dex +4, Con +2, Int +2 (48 CP, reduced to 24 CP by World Laws).
  • Celerity (18 CP), +20′ Swim Movement, +8 to all Swim Checks, may “take 10” under stress.
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Sonar (6 CP) (Specialized: only really works well in water, but works nicely out to 120 feet). Note that dolphin sonar is capable of resolving fairly fine details, examining the internal structure of bodies and many other items, and of medical diagnostics. Relevant checks are made with the Listen skill.
  • Innate “Enchantment”/Aquatic Adaptions (12 CP) plus Immunity to Antimagic and Dispelling / Only to protect these abilities (these are personal-only physical adaptions, and work perfectly well in Core, 6 CP): Personal Haste (+1 Attack when making a full attack, +30′ Movement [2000 GP]), Streamlining (+30′ swimming, [1400 GP]), Deep Breathing (can hold their breaths up to ten minutes, [1400 GP]), Wakefullness (NeoDolphins are never fully asleep, although they do suffer a -4 penalty on perception and swimming checks during rest periods, [1400 GP]), +5 to Listen checks while in water [1400 GP], Hide Like Ox (+1 Natural Armor, to represent their fatty layer, 1400 GP), Augmented Natural Weapons (increases base damage to 1d8, only when ramming in water, [1000 GP]).
  • Adept (6 CP): Half cost on buying the Listen, Spot, Survival, and Swim skills.
  • +4 to Listen and Swim (4 CP)
  • Martial Arts/1d4 Innate Weapons, always considered armed (3 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (uncommon/minor/minor, 2 CP). They can expect to live for several centuries without much of any signs of aging.
  • Grant of Aid/Specialized (requires several hours): May heal 1d8+5 damage OR 1d3 points of attribute damage OR one negative level once per three levels per day or part thereof, 3 CP), with the Regenerative option/Corrupted (requires lots of food and rest, 2 CP), allowing them to slowly regrow lost limbs and organs.

   That would be 92 CP, but the entire template can be considered both Specialized and Corrupted, reducing the net cost to 31 CP – the limit for a +0 ECL template. After all, NeoDolphins are virtually helpless on land and have no manipulative limbs – keeping them from using virtually all equipment, including the stuff that you only have to wear, unless someone helps them. Secondarily, they have no sense of smell, limited legal rights in core (and most other areas), and may be subject to obedience programming – forcing them to give a very high priority to human orders. Fortunately for them, along with bringing their intelligence up to baseline human levels, the genetic engineers also inserted genes for longevity and enhanced healing abilities.

Legend of the Five Rings: Ivory Kingdom Schools

   The Asuras and Devas from the previous L5R post use a lot of new schools. While the Meditations of Unity is the only one to be fully posted so far – if only to preserve some surprises for the players – here are some capsule descriptions of the rest of those schools. Which of them actually gets posted next depends partially on whimsy and partially on which ones draw the most questions (and investigation) from the players and/or people who stumble across them online.

   It should be noted that most of the Ivory Kingdoms schools are quite powerful, if often fairly narrowly specialized. After all, quite a few of their developers have been refining them for dozens of lifetimes. The school design rules can be found in the player’s packet .PDF.

   Blood Tide: This semi-vampiric discipline supposedly allows its practitioners to drain their victims abilities to enhance their own, to entrap their victims souls in living brains within their decaying bodies, and to animate the dead to serve them. This reputation is likely a mixture of truth and rumor.

   Dharmadahara School: This Courtier school focuses on the detection of truth, the administration of justice, and near-universal expertise through the manipulation of Void.

   Dheramada School: This “courtier” school focuses on manipulating others, both by obtaining various services, through minor psychic abilities, and by imbuing companions – whether human or animal – with a portion of the user’s power and dispatching them on various missions. Oddly enough, a notable assassins’s school, at least to those (very very few) who know enough about it to recognize the possibilities.

   Elemental Storm: A semi-spellcasting school, focused on obtaining massive magical “favors” from various sorts of spirits and on amplifying the relevant skills to permit larger-than usual favors. One of the most effective schools around for causing widespread destruction.

   Forest Demon: A stealth-assassination school which uses a wide variety of poisons, eccentric weapons, and bizarre techniques to achieve the advantages of surprise in combat. Not all that effective in battle, but very useful in escaping.

   Garuda: A “courtier” school emphasizing knowledge, awareness, and investigation, albeit with a few basic defensive techniques thrown into the bargain. Practitioners are noted for their intuitive talent at assessing the odds in any situation.

   Gaze of Yama: A series of techniques allowing the user to inflict massive penalties on opponents in the immediate vicinity simply by willing it so, coupled with some basic weapons techniques designed to handle the opponents so weakened.

   Hungry Ghost: An eccentric school which focuses on biting people – for large amounts of damage – and on using the swallowed chunks of flesh to create mystical links between the user and his victims, allowing him or her to track said victims, drain their abilities, and even to tap into some of their magical talents, if any.

   Inner Citadel: A school focusing on resistances, supernatural immunities, and unbreakable will, but with some more conventional defensive aspects.

   Invincible Guardian: Apparently a highly defensive discipline, focused on defense, absorbing large amounts of damage, and spotting potential attackers regardless of their attempts to conceal themselves and their intentions. Somewhat unusual, in that it can be used to defend others as well as the user.

   Iron Body: A straightforward school focusing on invulnerability, or as close to such as a string of techniques will get you.

   Leaping Flame Sword: A straightforward sword school, focused on speed, acrobatic movement and evasions, and strikes.

   Night Wind of the Soul: Believed to focus on demonic powers, sendings, and summonings. Has not yet been seen in action, and is one of the more secretive schools out there. It’s few practitioners rarely share their knowledge.

   Purifying Waters: Primarily a healing and purifying school for exorcists, albeit granting access to some fairly strong water effects at higher ranks.

   Rahu-Ketu School of the Midnight Sun. This strongly mystical school focuses on the powers of Light and Darkness Magic – although NEVER using both at the same time. Most practitioners stick to the lesser powers; the use of the greater ones have sometimes resulted in massive disasters – although no one is really sure; no one has ever survived such an occurance.

   Seven Secret Cuts: Apparently focuses on spell-like powers, channeled through sword-strikes and based on elemental effects. The Strike of the Water Dragon seems to freeze everyone in a wide radius (killing weaker opponents and entrapping more powerful ones) while the Void Dragon Slash is a teleportation effect. Secondarily, it seems to offer some athletics enhancements, to aid maneuvering.

   ShadowFire: An unarmed and unarmored school focusing on the ability to call forth spiritual fire which feeds on defined qualities. Secondary techniques include supernatural sight, body-control, self-healing, and other “monkish” talents.

   Shattering Palm: An unarmed school focusing on raw destruction – including that of masses of stone, of the structure of spells, of weapons and armor, and of bones and flesh. Not really the best against an armed and skilled opponent, but an effective tool in a wide variety of situations and about the only known school that allows you to block incoming spells by smashing them with your bare hands.

   Sun Blade School: Reportedly an almost totally-offensive school which allows it’s users to inflict tremendous amounts of damage wielding weapons conjured from nothingness.

   Ward of Heaven: A spirit-mastery school, who’s wielders can temporarily bestow the benefits of various spirit-ally augmentations on a sizable number of allies. Masters can anchor their allies spirits with their own bodies, keeping them from dying no matter how severe their physical injuries. This cannot be maintained indefinitely, and magical healing will usually be needed once the body is past the normal point of death, but it can still be extremely useful.

   Whispers of the Winds: A school apparently focusing on supernatural senses and awareness of the user’s surroundings. Dangerous at higher levels thanks to the awareness it grants of flaws in defenses, nerve points, and similar weaknesses.