Humanity is not the first species to reach out into the galaxy.
There were those who came before… In long ages past at least four great civilizations extended throughout a substantial portion of the galaxy, covering several different preferred environments with works employing at least four radically different technologies – reasonably conventional microtronics, resonant informational manipulations, coupled spacefield constructs, and biotechnologies. Their relics, both great and small, are found on thousands of worlds. They are known by many names across many worlds. They are the Elders, the Precursors, the Engineers, the First…
Perhaps the most fitting name is “the Idiots”.
For there was war. And someone, on one side or another, thought that it would be a good idea to deploy self-reproducing, autonomously-directed, weaponry. And the idea spread. Perhaps that too was some mimetic weapon. Stranger informational manipulations and spacefield effects than THAT have been encountered.
In the end… no one really knows if any of the Idiots survived. Their cultures certainly did not, and if some of their descendants still survive in pre-technological tribes or villages on some damaged planet what does it matter? By this time they’d doubtless have evolved enough through genetic drift alone to be fairly unrecognizable.
Unfortunately, between relativistic and preservation effects, and self-repairing and self-reproducing systems, the unknown duration of the war, and random chance… there are quite a few relics of the Idiots lying about the galaxy. Some are benign, some simply strange, and some – far too many – are terrible booby-traps awaiting the unwary.
Now it is humanities turn to voyage out into the galaxy, to tread where others have gone before – and have left their nightmares to cluster in the shadows. Was Earth touched by the Idiots? There are so many legends that it is almost impossible to know… but if it was, it was not on any great scale.
Unlike so many worlds across the galaxy.
Mankind has encountered several ravaged post-Idiot worlds and a few alien races to date. So far… none have developed much past the basic agricultural level, although what evidence there is (mostly that some exist on worlds they obviously did not evolve on) suggests that some of them had reached considerably greater heights before their civilizations were destroyed by some horrific legacy of the Idiots.
Colonies have been planted on quite a few worlds. Their survival rate has not been good. All too many new settlements are wiped out, whether by some plague, natural disaster, unforeseen circumstance of settling on a new planet or by some legacy of the galaxies discordant past.
Exploration is hideously, insanely, dangerous. The study of Idiotic relics is also hideously and insanely dangerous. Travel between known worlds is less dangerous, but hardly safe. But Earth itself… is far too crowded. It has become a melting pot of insane cults, strange philosophies, experimental governments, out-of-control multinationals, and attempts to adapt the exotic technologies of the Idiots to various purposes – no matter how much saner folk try to stamp out such experiments.
Humanity is not the first species to reach out into the galaxy. It is not first, the tenth, or likely even the hundredth, young civilization to encounter the Legacy of the Idiots.
But the stars are silent.
At least so far, Humanity has met no other species expanding among the stars. Whether or not the human race will defy that grim prognosis has yet to be determined.
You, and your friends, have a small ship.
What are you going to do?
In D20 terms…
Basic Shadowed Galaxy Characters are all
Dystopian Survivor Humans (30 CP / +0 ECL). They gain the racial traits of…
- Highly Adaptable: Gain one Bonus Feat / 6 Bonus CP (6 CP).
- Birthright: Choice of +2 to an Attribute or another 12 CP ability package derived from your background.
- Quick to Learn: Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (Level x 2 + 6 total, 6 CP).
- Tested Immunity: After the global pandemics and pollution crises everyone who didn’t inherit this is dead. Immunity to toxins, pollutants, and disease (Common, Major, Trivial, for a +2 bonus on relevant rolls, 3 CP).
- Projectile Predator: +1 BAB, Specialized in Ranged Attacks (3 CP).
- Technological Aptitudes: Microtronic A, Biotech B, Psychic C, Informational D, Spacefield E. Humans are good with what we (of course) see as “conventional” technology, decent at biotech, average at best with psychic stuff, poor at “magic”, and basically unable to work with Spacefield Technologies.
Wait, what do those aptitudes mean?
- Microtronics includes most “conventional” technology. Electrical and electronic systems, fusion power plants, reaction and space-distortion (or “Warp”) drives, bionic replacement limbs, and so on. While many Microtronic Idiotic devices remain beyond duplication (or are more or less uncontrollable) for the most part people have a reasonable idea of how they work. While there are a fair number of possible systems which are impractical or have yet to be invented, humanity seems to have no actual barrier to progressing along this path – although there may be some inherent upper limit to Microtronics itself.
- Biotechnology is not as straightforward as was once hoped. Designing major modifications to the human genome has proven impractical; evidently it involves nonphysical factors that humans are ill-equipped to deal with. The old dream of “animal-based augmentations” turned out to be nonsensical; genes simply are not “blueprints” for building a creature; they code for proteins that often play dozens or hundreds of roles. Still, there are quite a few gene-tweaks and modified seeds and creatures available.
- Psychic Powers are – at least in humans – generally limited to low-end effects. Basic Witchcraft, and a limited number of the Advanced Witchcraft Abilities are available. Humans can even learn to manifest a few psionic abilities (up to second level maximum) or some degree of “mad science” – but little more. Even races with Class-A potential in the field are limited (ninth and epic level effects are not available even to them).
- Resonant Information Manipulations are – at least in d20 – represented by the various “Magic” systems. Unfortunately… humans are very VERY bad at magic. They may have a knack or two (especially if they’ve been exposed to appropriate Idiotic effects), but otherwise, even with training, research, and the best components that can be found, they are limited to achieving minor results with awkward rituals. Even races with Class-A potential in the field are limited (ninth and epic level effects are not available even to them).
- Spacefield Technologies can give ordinary creatures, materials, and locations aberrent properties with no apparent physical explanation. In game terms they normally involve Templates – creating items with weird and wonderful functionalities, bestowing strange powers on creatures, and so on. As of yet, no encountered species is known to be capable of doing much with Spacefields, although Aberrent Materials can be used in a wide variety of wonderful, and unreliable, devices.